Mikel Merino reveals why he’s ready to tackle the Premier League with Newcastle

Good business: Newcastle United manager Rafa Benitez.
Good business: Newcastle United manager Rafa Benitez.

Mikel Merino insists he is strong enough to tackle the Premier League – after signing for Newcastle United.

The midfielder has joined the Magpies on a season-long loan.

And Merino – who is in Rafa Benitez’s side for this afternoon’s game against Mainz at the Opel Arena – can’t wait to get started.

The 21-year-old is known as a defensive midfielder, but can also play a more advanced role.

And the Spain Under-21 international feels he will be able to handle the physicality and intensity of Premier League football.

“I think I am strong enough to play in this league,” said Merino. “Also, I have the technical ability to be here. Let’s see how it goes.

I always want to attack and score goals and help the team go forward, but of course we know defence is a really important part of the game.

Mikel Merino

“I’m a lucky player because I have had two teams with a really good crowd, and I also know that Newcastle has a big stadium with people always supporting the team.

“I can’t wait to be in the stadium.

“I knew that it was a great club. I’m very happy to be in this city. I know this is a really nice city.”

Merino says he turned down other offers to join Newcastle.

“I had different offers and different options,” said the Pamplona-born player.

“I think this is a great club and the right place to play and develop myself. With this coach and the crowd, I think this is the right place.

“For me, it was a big factor. He’s a Spanish coach and has an incredible career. I think I can improve a lot with him.”

Merino feels he can make a contribution with and without the ball.

“I’m a midfielder with a lot of potential,” he said.

“I always like to help my team-mates with and without the ball.

“I like to play with the ball and control the game. I’m strong enough for one-on-one duels.

“I always want to attack and score goals and help the team go forward, but of course we know defence is a really important part of the game.”

Merino, having played in Spain and Germany, is looking forward to testing himself in English football.

“For me, being in the Premier League is a really important factor,” he said.

“It’s one of the greatest leagues in the world. I can’t wait to start.

“I hope to have a great season. I expect to have really competitive matches and improve myself as a player. I hope to stay in this league. The club and the team has the potential. That’s the first step.”

The loan deal has a obligation to buy if Merino makes a certain number of appearances.

And United manager Benitez said: “He’s a good size, has quality on the ball and he’s very, very focused and professional.

“Hopefully, he’s the kind of player we can improve a lot. He certainly has the mentality to get better and better.

“He comes from a top side in Dortmund, and although he did not play too much last season, he was signed as a young, talented player and to be signed by a club like that shows that he has something good.

“He has to show what he has, and hopefully he can enjoy playing here for a long time.”

Merino joined Dortmund from Osasuna a year ago.

But he only made a handful of appearances in the Bundesliga.

Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc said: “Mikel was not getting the playing time that he had hoped for given the range of high-quality options we have in the midfield positions.

“We have therefore agreed to his wish and wish him all the very best for the coming season in England.”