It looks like Newcastle United are edging closer to their fifth summer signing in the form of Mikel Merino. Marca broke the news that we had agreed terms with Borussia Dortmund ahead of a loan deal, but the Chronicle have since reported that a permanent is on the table for the midfielder. Although the transfer has come out of nowhere, it does appear to be at an advanced stage with the Bundesliga club confirming that he was in discussions with another club.
The Spaniard has been spotted on Tyneside this afternoon and a deal is imminent.
Merino won’t be well known in England, as he has featured only eight times for Dortmund last season in the Bundesliga. However, he is considered a big talent in Spain after breaking through at Osasuna as a teenager. He accumulated over 60 appearances for club before being snapped up by the Black and Yellows at the age of 19. In his final season in Spain, he managed to score six goals and was utilised predominantly as a box-to-box midfielder.
Despite his tender age, he was assured in possession and possessed a quick burst of pace that he utilised to great effect in the centre of the park. When he moved to Dortmund, the then manager Thomas Tuchel was impressed by his reading of the game and thought that he could transition Merino to centre-back. His versatility will be an asset if he does end up at St James’ Park. It didn’t work out at Dortmund for one reason or another, but at the age of 21, Merino clearly has potential and he could be a great signing.
To find out more about the midfielder, we asked some questions to James Vickers, who follows Borussia Dortmund.
How would you describe Merino’s playing style? What is his best position?
Merino, from his short time at Dortmund, seemed like a typical Spanish footballer in the sense that he was solid on the ball and was able to read the game at a level beyond his years. He was slightly lacking in the pace and physical side of the game but his ability to read the game made up for that.
With regards to his best position, he often found himself used as a utility player, similar to how Thomas Tuchel used Matze Ginter. He always seemed suited to a deep lying midfield role, however, Julian Weigl has that position locked down, due to this he sometimes played in a back three but holding midfield seemed to suit him better.
Did Dortmund expect him to succeed quicker than he has? Why didn’t he get much game-time last season?
Dortmund would’ve liked him to adapt quicker to the style of the Bundesliga but that is often hard for a foreign player; see Renato Sanches last season at Bayern Munich as a classic example. Part of this was down to players such as Castro and Weigl being ahead of him in the pecking order, he could’ve benefitted to a loan move to someone such as Frankfurt looking back at his stop start season, but hindsight is a wonderful thing.
Do you think he would be suited to the Premier League?
I think, given the time to adapt, he could be a very shrewd signing for Newcastle, especially alongside someone such as Shelvey. What Mikel needs more than anything at the moment is a consistent run of games, and for him to regain the sort of form that got him the move from Osasuna to Dortmund in the first place.
Is he good enough to start for Newcastle currently?
Based on his form towards the end of last season I would say no, but if he can regain the form from pre season this time last year then he would be a certainty to start. Like most players his age he seems to be a confidence player, and that comes with games. One criticism that many Dortmund fans seemed to have with ex manager Thomas Tuchel was that he had his favourites in the squad and often stuck with those, so I think working with someone such as Benitez will really benefit Mikel.
Do you think he would be a good signing for Newcastle? Or does he offer a risk?
I think with the way the market is at the moment, he will be a very good signing for Newcastle. If he can regain the form he showed this time last season then it should be a move that benefits all parties involved.
Big thanks to James for helping out with the piece!