Mikel Merino leaves Newcastle for Real Sociedad

anoeta real sociedad

Real Sociedad have completed the signing of midfielder Mikel Merino for a £10m transfer fee.

The Pamplona born player returns to Spain after a season on loan at Premier League side Newcastle United, but this will be his first taste of La Liga football.

The Spanish U21 international played for Osasuna in the Segunda Divsion between 2014-16, before moving onto Borussia Dortmund.

After six months he moved on loan to Tyneside, before making his move permanent at the start of last season.

He excelled under the management of compatriot Rafael Benitez at St.James’ Park, making 24 appearances in 2017-18.

However he did have a release clause inserted in his contract, and the Basque side have now activated that to bring him to San Sebastian.

Whilst Newcastle fans are likely to be disappointed by his departure, he is set to play a key role in Asier Garitanio’s new side.

The former Leganes manager was brought in at the end of the 2017-18 campaign, after previous boss Imanol Alguacil was fired following an 11th place finish – and no European football for the new campaign.

Merino is the first signing of Garitano’s reign at the club, and he is unlikely to be the last player to come in before the La Liga season begins next month.

However the bigger issue for Garitano may be to prevent the leak of players exiting the club.

The big loss from 2017-18 was star defender Inigo Martinez, who left for rivals Athletic Bilbao – after Aymeric Laporte went to Manchester City.

Whilst the club received £28 million for Martinez, they did not really replace him, with a makeshift defence seeing them through to the end of the season.

Already ahead of 2018-19, highly rated full back Alvaro Odriozola has moved to Real Madrid – and Sociedad will be mindful of the vultures circling over their players.

They famously sold Asier Illarramendi to Real in 2013, and although he returned to the club two seasons later – there is the looming threat of exits, if one of the big boys come calling.

Garitano will be hoping that Odriozola is the only high profile outgoing player, but highly rated striker Willian Jose is on the radar of clubs across Europe following an excellent 2017-18 season.

The Brazilian scored 15 La Liga goals, and twenty including Copa del Rey and Europa League action and he all action style has caught the eye of Chelsea and clubs in Italy.

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