Mikel Merino was our Man of the Match on Saturday narrowly edging out Matt Ritchie, who had another 100% all-out performance for the Magpies.
And Rafa Benitez has come out and said he thinks Merino is similar to his former player at Liverpool, Xabi Alonso, who has had a great career and won the World Cup with Spain.
If Mikel gets anywhere near Alonso, we will have a real gem at Newcastle – that’s for sure.
And the displays of the 21-year-old who has been called up by the Spanish U21 squad, have been outstanding for one so young and he’s only just arrived at the club.
The Spaniard gave a good all-around display on Saturday and put a terrific through ball to Christian Atsu for him to nicely set up Joselu’s first ever goal for the club.
Mikel Merino – excellent game on Saturday
To compare Mikel with the former Liverpool, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich midfielder is a compliment indeed and certainly Rafa knows what he’s talking about.
This is what the manager has said about the 21-year-old and his similarities with Alonso, as reported in the Chronicle:
“There are similarities,”
“I will tell you, though it maybe sounds stupid, that they are both Basque – from the Basque country.”
“They are similar because of the position they are in and the way they read the game. Alonso’s long passing was better but Merino is more mobile and more dynamic.”
“I’ve been tracking him for a while now. We knew him when he was in the U21s”
“With him he hasn’t been playing regularly for a while, so his job is to keep going, keep training, get as many minutes as he can under his belt and he will get better.”
“Yes he’s adapting to the pace, there have been a couple of situations where he’s been caught out but he is very dynamic.” “He is always moving.”
“It’s a question of understanding the game here. He has natural composure on the ball.”
“There were a lot of players I had at Liverpool in the beginning who came from Spain.”
“It’s always difficult at first when you have quality they eventually adapt to the pace of the game”
Merino joined Newcastle from Borussia Dortmund on a season-long loan this summer.
And according to various reports, we either have an option to buy him next year or an obligation to buy him after he has made a specific number of first team appearances for the club.
It looks like we could have a gem of a player on our hands with Mikel.
What do you think?