Newcastle United manager Rafael Benitez has rebuffed claims that the Magpies are willing to allow star midfielder Mikel Merino to depart the club before Wednesday’s transfer deadline.
Spanish publication Marca made the shock claims on their website that the club were open to offers for the 21-year-old maestro despite having signed him from Borussia Dortmund last summer, with Athletic Bilbao said to be interested in taking him back to Spain following Aymeric Laporte’s £57million departure to Manchester City.
The youngster has established himself as a fans’ favourite on Tyneside in his six months with the club, and is viewed by the Toon Army as one of the brightest talents to have arrived in recent years.
However, Benitez poured cold water on the claims when probed during his press conference on Tuesday, with the Chronicle’s Lee Ryder quoting the Spanish boss on his personal Twitter account as saying: “I have had messages from Spanish journalists and I told them no.”
Rafa on Merino exit(linked with Bilbao): “I have had messages from Spanish journalists and I told them no.” #nufc
— Lee Ryder (@lee_ryder) January 30, 2018
Merino has made 19 appearances since arriving on an initial loan move, before turning his switch permanent with a five-and-a-half year deal signed.
Football Insider verdict
While Newcastle fans can expect there to be a number of departures before Wednesday’s deadline passes, it appears as though Merino will not be one of them, in what will be music to the Toon Army’s ears. While he has not been a regular starter as a result of injury, he has shown that he has what it takes to be a crucial member of the Magpies’ squad, and at just 21, he could grow into a truly top talent under Benitez’s tutelage. In reality, a big money offer might tempt the club to sell up, but with such little time to splash the cash they might pick up, it is better to keep him until at least the end of the season, especially when the club seem set for a relegation battle.
In other Newcastle United transfer news, the club are set to see several exits as Benitez confirms transfer talks.