Mikel Merino joined us in the summer of 2017 from Borussia Dortmund and wanted the move becasue he wanted to play more first-team football.
The Spanish U21 International was an immediate hit at the club and helped us to get a good start to the season through the end of October.
But then he was out for some time with a back injury and after that, he found it difficult to get back into the first team.
It seems like the lack of playing time in the second half of last season made him trigger a release clause in his contract and he was signed by Real Sociedad.
So it was just one season at the club for the Spanish central midfielder.
Mikel Merino in action for Newcastle last season
This is some of what Merino has said in an exclusive in the Chronicle today:
“Once I made the decision. Rafa called me. We were not talking for too long but he wished me the best,”
“I did the same and I still try to follow all the matches that Newcastle play. I’m still a Newcastle fan. I think I will always be one.”
“It was tough. It was not an easy decision for me. I miss a lot of things from Newcastle and the way they treated me was pretty awesome because I felt almost like I was at home.”
“The city was really beautiful and the people there showed me a lot of love. Not only the league and the football but the culture and everything.”
“It was great to have a Spanish manager who has made such a big impact in the game and in England with the fans.”
“I learned a lot of things: what I need to do and what I don’t have to do on the pitch. That helped me a lot.”
“Not only him but all my team-mates and of course in the league, every single match was special and you could learn something different from every training session.”
“I think that Rafa’s a very constant coach. He always knows what he has to do. He’s always on top of the players. He’s always taking care of every single detail with every single player.”
“It doesn’t matter whether you are the goalkeeper or the striker, he’s always taking care of you and that’s what makes him a great coach for me.”
It must have been a double blow to Rafa last season because not only did he lose defensive midfielder Mike Merino but our other young player in that position – Isaac Hayden – told the manager he wanted to leave Newcastle for personal reasons.
And so Isaac will leave us in the summer and an opportunity for Rafa to bring in another young defensive midfielder who he can develop on Tyneside.
That’s always assuming Rafa stays at the club, even though Mike Ashley will still be the owner in June.
We liked Mikel a lot and he played 25 times for Newcastle with one goal and one assist: it’s a pity we lost him.