Ahead of Mikel Merino’s imminent move to Real Sociedad, Rafa Benitez has suggested that the midfielder was only prepared to sign for Newcastle if a release clause was added into his contract – meaning we were always powerless to losing him for just £10m.
The gaffer has also admitted that the midfielder wanted to play more football and took it upon himself to push for a move from St James’ Park – meaning it was a situation we ‘couldn’t control’ despite Benitez being keen to keep him at the club.
This is disappointing and a revelation that makes his exit much easier. We don’t need players here who are keen to jump ship the moment things don’t quite go their way.
Speaking at the Academy’s 1892 Foundation Cup this week, here’s what he’s had to say about Merino’s imminent exit:
“It was a pity because obviously he wanted to play more football. He is a young player and he struggled to get back into the team because [Mo] Diame and [Jonjo] Shelvey were doing so well,”
“That meant Merino didn’t get much gametime, then we had three or four Spanish clubs who were interested in him.
“In the end it was something we couldn’t control because he decided to go. We knew that could happen, so we had to be prepared – and in the end we were.”
So a lack of game time turned his head and it seems as though there was no looking back for him once several Spanish sides circled.
Interestingly, the Chronicle’s piece on this also insists that Newcastle had ‘no choice’ but to accept the £10m clause put into his contract, claiming we would have been unable to have even signed him in the first place of this was not agreed to.
Benitez then talked about Ki – Merino’s replacement – and the £10m clause that has allowed the Spaniard to leave:
“He will bring experience. He has experience in the Premier League, he has quality. Mikel was a young player with great potential, but now we have a player who has been there before,” Benitez added of South Korea captain Ki.
“When we first signed Mikel, people forget that the reason we got him from Borussia Dortmund was because he had this condition too – he had a release clause which he could use if he was not playing as much as he wanted.
“In this case we did that, he was playing really well for us, and I was really pleased with him at the beginning of the season.
“After he had the injury, when he went two months without playing, he played less, and after Jonjo and Diame did really well.
“But that is football – and we move on.”
As Rafa says, we move on – and we have a pretty reliable replacement in Ki Sung-Yueng.
It’s a shame, but I won’t lose too much sleep over a player who wasn’t prepared to fight for his place as soon as the going got tough.