Newcastle manager discusses Mikel Merino amid transfer speculation

Mikel Merino. Picture by Frank Reid
Mikel Merino. Picture by Frank Reid

Rafa Benitez says he’s relaxed about speculation linking Mikel Merino with a move away from Newcastle United.

The Pamplona-born midfielder has been linked with Basque sides Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad this year.

Merino – who wasn’t involved against Huddersfield Town last weekend – has found his opportunities limited by the form of Jonjo Shelvey and Mohamed Diame in recent months.

A report this week claimed that the 21-year-old, signed from Borussia Dortmund last year, had told Benitez that he wanted to leave St James’s Park in the summer.

Asked if Merino had informed him that he wanted to quit, Benitez said: “No. He is training well.”

On Merino’s future, Benitez added: “I don’t need to talk too much about his future.

“He has to train well, be available and I know the agents. We were talking in the past about how he is doing.

“It’s fine. It’s just a question about where he is from – the Basque country. It’s always an attention for Real Sociedad and Bilbao, because they do not have too many players, especially players of his level. So you cannot stop that. “

Meanwhile, Benitez has congratulated United striker Aleksandar Mitrovic, who collected the Championship Player of the Month award for March.

Mitrovic has scored eight goals for loan club Fulham.

Benitez has also been in contact with Adam Armstrong and Matz Sels, who are on loan at Blackburn Rovers and Anderlecht respectively.

“I was congratulating him and Armstrong, and I was in contact with Sels,” said Benitez.“You’re in contact with these players, because we follow them.

“We are working on that. We follow our players on loan and have a report every week to know if they were playing, if they were doing well or not.

“But we have to wait and after, it will be easier to talk with them (about their futures at Newcastle).”