Benitez compares Newcastle summer signing to football great
By Abigail Withey
Rafa Benitez has compared Newcastle summer signing Mikel Merino to his former Liverpool midfielder and football great Xabi Alonso.
Alonso played under the Toon boss at Anfield from 2004 until he moved to Real Madrid in 2009 and was a key member of the Spain international team which went on to win the World Cup in 2010.
The 35-year-old retired at the beginning of the summer, and now the United boss has explained that he sees similarities between both Merino and Alonso.
“There are similarities, I will tell you, though it maybe sounds stupid, that they are both Basque – from the Basque country,” Benitez explained to the Chronicle.
“They are similar because of the position they are in and the way they read the game. Alonso’s long passing was better but Merino is more mobile and more dynamic.”
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Merino moved to St. James’ Park from Borussia Dortmund on a season-long loan spell earlier in the summer transfer window.
His loan deal also has a clause which means the club have the option to buy the 21-year-old midfielder, so he will be keen to impress throughout the duration of his stay.
The Spaniard made his Premier League debut during the Magpies’ opening game of the campaign which ended in a disappointing defeat to Tottenham.
The new loanee has since had the opportunity to prove himself to Benitez after fellow defensive midfielder and skipper Jonjo Shelvy was handed a straight red during the Spurs clash which led to a suspension.
This has meant that Merino has been picked to start in both of Newcastle’s remaining Premier League matches against Huddersfield and West Ham over the past few weeks where he has shown promise and signs of development.
In other Newcastle news, fans have reacted on Twitter after the club announced that an attacker had secured a deal.