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'I want to increase my offensive skills' - Mikel Merino eyes summer improvement ahead of Newcastle United return

Mikel Merino tussles with Ashley Barnes, of Burnley.
Mikel Merino tussles with Ashley Barnes, of Burnley.

Mikel Merino admits he's set to put in the hard yards this summer in order to keep improving at Newcastle United.

Speculation has been rife the Spaniard could be sold this summer to aid in financing a summer revamp by manager Rafa Benitez.

Merino in action against Brighton at the start of his Premier League journey.

Merino in action against Brighton at the start of his Premier League journey.

But the is in no doubt where he will be playing his football next season.

"I want to increase my offensive skills, try to make more goals, try to be more confident with ball and try to make my teammates play better," said Merino, who made 25 appearances in his debut season at St James's Park.

"In the summer I will work on my less strong things, like using more of the right foot and things like that, and in the pre-season I’ll try to improve myself even more and start the season at a high level.

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Rafa Benitez.

Rafa Benitez.

"I’ll try to improve myself, I’ll try to play more minutes, to be an important part of the team and an important player."

Reflecting back on the campaign that was, Merino, speaking to nufc.co.uk, said: "It has been a big season for me.

"It was my first season as a professional player in the highest division and, for me, I’ve learned a lot.

"I’m happy because I’ve been in a really good group with really good players, learning in arguably the best league in the world, and I think I’ve got a lot more things to improve.

Merino made 25 appearances for United last term, scoring once (against Crystal Palace at St James's Park).

Merino made 25 appearances for United last term, scoring once (against Crystal Palace at St James's Park).

"But it’s been a very good first year for me."

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Having broken on the scene Merino in some style Merino drifted in and out of the first-team picture at United towards the end of the season, partly due to a persistent problem with his back and also the form of central midfield duo Mo Diame and Jonjo Shelvey.

It has led to some reports, emanating from his homeland, suggesting Merino was unhappy at a lack of gametime and could be edging closer to the United exit door, despite only making his Dortmund loan permanent at the end of last year.

Links to the likes of Athletic Bilbao are a constant, with the Basque outfit said to have been seriously considering a bid in January, and then again this summer.

But Merino has made no secret of the fact he is crafting his trade and sharpening his tools on Tyneside.

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"When you play against the best players in the world, at this level, where every single thing and every single mistake counts, you learn a lot," said the Spain under-21 international.

"The pace, the tempo and the intensity is amazing, and with those minutes you play you learn a lot.

"I think it’s going to be a really good season next season, and in the future.”

Earlier this summer Merino moved to address his future at United, amid the rumours of a Premier League departure.

Speaking to Spanish station Radio Marca Navarra, Merino said: "Every market there are rumours of all kinds - we are in that section of football at this time, and I take it that way.

"Right now what I want is to enjoy the holidays with my family and what happens will happen, but now I just focus on enjoying myself.

"I’m not worried about what happens; if something happens then the agents will call my parents and they communicate it to me, but I’m not spending all day waiting for the mobile to ring.

"I had a small injury (last season), and then the decisions that the coaches take we have to respect.

"They played other team-mates, who did well, and in the end the collective objective was fulfilled. I cannot do more than what I did; train to be ready when I’m chosen.

"On a personal level, I learned a lot during my first season in England. It’s been good for me, especially at the beginning of the season, when I played more and I was able to adapt to top-level football.

"The competition that exists in the Premier League, where each game is a war and the pace is so high - it has been very good for me to learn."