Date: 6th February 2018 at 8:18pm
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Claims surrounding Athletic Bilbao’s hunt of Newcastle United midfielder Mikel Merino in the January transfer window were likely born as a result of the Spanish club’s own false information leaks, according to a report.

The Chronicle claim on their website that despite several established and reputable publications reporting the La Liga club’s pursuit of the former Borussia Dortmund man, the source of the reports was the club themselves, who were looking to appease the supporters after losing Aymeric Laporte to Manchester City.

The fascinating insight suggests that Bilbao, who battled with Newcastle for Merino’s signing from Dortmund over the summer, tried to hint that a transfer hunt was ongoing, but that sources at the Magpies’ end revealed there was never a deal close to taking place.

Merino has established himself as a fans’ favourite on Tyneside despite only signing in the summer, and he has 21 appearances to his name so far.

Football Insider verdict

Merino’s departure always seemed unlikely and this report appears to prove what a lot of fans and journalists would have been thinking. Due to Bilbao’s rigid transfer policy, which allows them to buy and field players from the Basque region of Spain, their list of targets is significantly shorter than their competition, and they have to be very particular with who they target. As such, Merino, who falls under their categorisation, seemed an obvious, big name target to keep the supporters happy, but without any real substance behind the move. Newcastle fans themselves know all about broken promises, and so there may well be a twinge of sympathy held for their Spanish counterparts.

In other Newcastle United transfer news, the club are set to reignite a swoop for an international hitman.

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