Newcastle midfielder close to exit after 'clearing his mind' during summer break

Mikel Merino
Mikel Merino

Real Sociedad hope to clinch the signing of Mikel Merino this week, according to a report in Spain.

The Newcastle United midfielder, signed from Borussia Dortmund last year, has been linked with a number of Spanish clubs in recent months.

Rafa Benitez

Rafa Benitez

However, it was claimed over the weekend that Althetic Bilbao had ruled out a move for the Pamplona-born player, who made 14 Premier League starts last season.

READ MORE: Revealed! Mikel Merino's '£10.5m release clause' at Newcastle

And Marca report claim that this week will be "decisive" in Real Sociedad's pursuit of Merino, who told the Gazette in May that he would "clear his mind" in the summer after a frustrating few months at St James's Park.

The 22-year-old found his opportunities limited by the form of Jonjo Shelvey and Mohamed Diame in the second half of the campaign.

Benitez was coy when asked about Merino's United future late last season.

“I think that he was unlucky with that injury and also Jonjo and Diame were playing much better," said Newcastle's manager, who has only signed one player – goalkeeper Martin Dubravka – so far this summer.

"We have to understand that when you talk about players in the same position ... we can say ‘Merino is really good, better than Shelvey’, but if we’ve had words about that, it means something is right, because both are good players. But when one is so bad that nobody’s talking about him, something is wrong.

"In this case, we are lucky enough to have (Isaac) Hayden, Mikel, Jonjo and more, because all of them can play.

“When the team is playing well, I don’t think there’s a massive difference between one or the other one.

“They are different in terms of characteristics, but the team could do well with one or the other one.”