Mikel Merino was our Man of the Match for Saturday’s great 3-0 win against West Ham United, and he showed the high level of potential he has to become a really top player at Newcastle.
And Benitez even compared Mikel to his great central midfielder at Liverpool, Xabi Alonso, who went on to play for both Real Madrid and Bayern Munich and was world-class.
But Mikel has come in for some criticism as well in his short time on Tyneside.
Former Newcastle manager Graeme Souness talked about his defending being a joke for Aaron Mooy’s winning goal at Huddersfield – these pundits are certainly good at giving out criticisms to young players.
Mikel Merino – great potential
But Merino expects to improve a lot under Spanish manager Rafa Benitez at Newcastle, and he had this to say in an extended interview in the Chronicle:
“I like to give the passes to my team-mates because I think it’s the best way to win matches.” “Precise passes and to go forward, that is what I try.”
“Sometimes you misplace passes because you take risks in order to give a good pass to someone in front.”
“But when the pass is good, it creates a clear chance for our team so I try to give these passes.”
“If I fail with half of it, then it doesn’t matter because I know the other half will be good chances.”
“That’s what I try to do. I have to learn a lot from Rafa, from the league, I’m only 21, and I think I have a lot of things to improve.”
“But by playing I will learn and I will become a more-complete footballer.”
“I heard something (about Souness’ criticism) but I don’t really give importance to it.”
“I enjoyed this match a lot, of course, it was very important to get that first victory after two losses to begin with.”
“It was important to win in front of our people. The main thing is we played as a team, we played together.”
“And the things we are doing are in the right way so we have to keep playing, keep pushing and the wins will come.”
“You cannot comprehend the nerves after two defeats because no-one wants to lose, but what we have to do is forget the bad results, only think about the good things and the things to improve.”
“It was really important to score the first goal. We needed to start the match in good form, and in all the match the team were in a good way so we are really happy to get the win.”
“We are lucky in this game because we win doing a great job and this is good for us to feel confident and to keep doing the things we are doing.”
“It’s incredible to experience winning at St James’ Park.”
“It is incredible when you win because the crowd is really happy and in this game the crowd was really with the team, which is something we know we really need.”
“It was important to win before the two-week break. If you win now, then you have positivity. If you lose, then you have two weeks to think things over in your head and it is not nice,” he continued.
“Now we can relax, be more confident and come back even stronger.”
“I am looking forward to enjoying the time with my national team, to spend time with my team-mates and to learn and communicate with them.”
“It is a new generation and I am looking forward to enjoying this week.”
Those are great words from Merino who seems just a smashing lad who is already very popular with the Geordie fans.
And he’ll become even more popular if he keeps putting in performances like he gave last Saturday.
He looks like a great signing for us.