Newcastle United manager Rafael Benitez has stated his belief that there are similarities in playing style between midfielder Mikel Merino and Spanish legend Xabi Alonso.
While Jonjo Shelvey’s idiotic red card against Tottenham Hotspur in the opening day of the Premier League campaign angered many people, it has proven to be a blessing in disguise and the Englishman’s suspension has allowed summer signing Mikel Merino to start over the past two matches.
While Merino was decent against Huddersfield, the 21-year-old completely bossed the midfield in Newcastle’s impressive 3-0 victory over West Ham United on Saturday and the Magpies fans already seem to be taking a liking to the youngster.
Benitez has also been left very encouraged by the performances of Merino and has gone on to explain that he sees similarities between the ex-Osasuna man and Spanish legend Xabi Alonso, whom he managed at Liverpool for five years between 2004 and 2009.
The Spaniard replied when asked if Merino reminded him of Alonso, “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.”
Merino certainly looks like a wonderful prospect and if he can maintain such a fine run of form, Shelvey might just find it difficult to break into the first team even after the completion of his ban.