Mikel Merino has had an encouraging first season in England after joining Newcastle United from Borussia Dortmund in the summer. Although he has been less influential and been dropped to the bench since his back injury, he is only 21 years of age and he has the potential to be an important player for a long time at St James’ Park.
His performances haven’t escaped the attention of those in his native Spain and AS reported earlier this week that Athletic Bilbao remain very interested in Merino. They have tracked him for a number of years and it is a rumour that refuses to go away. This is partly caused by the La Liga club’s strict recruitment policy that allows them only to sign players with Basque heritage.
Newcastle supporters were concerned by the story as Merino is a player that they should be looking to keep for the long-term and it would be a blow to sell him after only one season. However, the Chronicle have since reported that the club have no interest in selling him to Bilbao as Rafa Benitez is pleased with his progress on Tyneside.
The first half of the season was very impressive from Merino as he stood out as one of the best players in the Newcastle squad. His ball-winning ability was most noticeable, with an average of 2.82 successful tackles and 2.29 interceptions every ninety minutes.
To put these numbers into context, N’Golo Kante currently averages 2.41 successful tackles and 2.02 interceptions per ninety minutes.
Although Merino is playing in a team that has a lot less possession than Chelsea, his ball-winning numbers remain very impressive and show that he has quickly adjusted to the physicality of the Premier League.
That said, he is more than a defensive-minded midfielder. He is intelligent on the ball and often distributes positively. He averages 35.89 forward passes per ninety minutes compared to only 16.13 backward passes.
Newcastle operate a counter-attacking style and Merino suits it well. Although Jonjo Shelvey and Mohamed Diame are currently the starters in central midfield, it won’t be long until the classy Spaniard is back on the team-sheet.
The player himself is happy at Newcastle and sees a future with the club, as he indicated during an interview with the Chronicle:
“It would be great if that Spanish cap comes when I am a Newcastle United player. I know I am at a great club and Newcastle is a great place too. This is a great scenario to show everybody what I can do. If I am able to play for Newcastle and Spain at senior level that will be great.”
Despite the interest from Athletic Bilbao, it would be a big mistake to let the talented midfielder leave the club this early. Newcastle are known for their policy of buying players with sell-on value and Merino fits into that category.
Mike Ashley may view this as an opportunity to turn a quick profit on a player he signed only last summer, but the Spaniard is likely to be worth a lot more in the future if he continues improving.
Putting the recruitment policy aside, Merino is one of the most talented players in the current Newcastle squad. Benitez will want to add more players with his quality rather than lose one as he tries to build the Magpies into a top-half Premier League team.
Unless the money offered is silly, the option of selling the 21-year-old shouldn’t even be considered.
Everton round-up: Lookman battle, Veloso wanted and Richarlison disappointment
A selection of the latest news and gossip from Everton.
Everton are still fighting to keep hold of Ademola Lookman this month. Ot has been reported that a new big money bid has been made for the England youngster from German side RB Leipzig.
The Toffees talent thrived on loan in the Bundesliga last season and is therefore on the radar again.
However, according to The Times, Everton remain determined to keep him.
Marco Silva sees him as a hot prospect and is also aware that Yannick Bolasie is likely to leave before the end of the month.
Everton are reportedly looking at the potential signature of Miguel Veloso. The Portugal international is a free agent having left Genoa this summer.
According to TEAMtalk, the Toffees are said to be interested in signing him, along with Wolverhampton Wanderers.
The 56-cap midfielder would add excellent strength in depth to the midfield at Goodison Park.
Richarlison has admitted he is disappointed not to have received a call-up to the latest Brazil squad.
The Everton newbie has enjoyed a fantastic start to life at Goodison Park and was being tipped to receive a call-up.
However, the 23-year-old has been left out of Tite’s squad for upcoming games with the USA and El Salvador.
Richarlison admitted to UOL Esporte that he was looking forward to a call-up and was disappointed it never came.
Is Erik Lamela about to have his best season yet as a Tottenham player?
The Argentine made a real impact against Fulham.
Erik Lamela impressed as Tottenham recorded a 2-1 victory over London rivals Fulham on Saturday.
The Argentine international hasn’t quite lived up to the reputation that accompanied his £25.7 million price when he moved from Roma in August 2013.
While he has threatened to show his true potential at times, he has never been able to achieve the level of consistency that warrants a regular starting spot for Spurs.
Nonetheless, fans were treated to the Argentine at his very best when he broke from his own half, dribbling past the entire Fulham midfield, before laying off the ball to Harry Kane for his goal at the weekend.
He complemented this moment with a confident cameo display from the bench, in which he threatened the opponents’ goal on two occasions, while fulfilling his role defensively, breaking up several Fulham counter-attacks.
Despite not getting as many minutes as he would have liked, Lamela was hugely influential in turning the course of the tie for the Lilywhites, and this could see him rewarded with his first start of the campaign in the not too distant future.
Having a fit and firing Erik Lamela gives Pochettino another excellent option for rotation in attack. After his cameo at Wembley, there is a feeling that the 26-year-old is well prepared for his best season as a Tottenham player.
Kevin Wimmer scores on Hannover debut as he puts Stoke nightmare behind him
The Austrian defender had an awful time at Stoke City last season.
When Stoke City signed Kevin Wimmer last summer it looked like something of a coup from the Potters. The Austrian had impressed at Tottenham during his time at White Hart Lane. Unfortunately, game time became hard to come by due to the excellence of Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen at the back for Spurs.
Wimmer was therefore sold to Stoke last summer for a fee in the region of £18 million. Mark Hughes was ecstatic with the signing but his form did not justify his exaggerated price-tag.
Wimmer struggled under Hughes and things got even worse when the Welshman left. Replaced by Paul Lambert, the new manager swiftly moved wimmer into the reserves. Told to lose weight he played no part in Stoke’s failed attempt to survive relegation from the Premier League.
This summer, with Stoke relegated, Wimmer was moved on. He joined Hannover in a season-long loan deal back in May.
At the weekend he began his first steps in forgetting his Stoke City nightmare. The Austrian played his first game for his new club in the DFB Pokal against Karlsruher. Not only did he play, but he also managed to score. It was his first goal since scoring v Liverpool in the League Cup back in 2016 whilst at Spurs.
He scored the opening goal of a convincing 6-0 win, powering home a close-range header.
Wimmer will long be remembered as one of Stoke’s biggest ever flops. But it seems he is certainly enjoying himself back in Germany.
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