Mikel Merino is the elusive great hope for Athletic Club. After failing to sign the midfielder for two years, the Lions will once again pursue his signature when this summer’s transfer window opens. The Basque giants nearly landed him in the winter when he agreed to person terms and Newcastle approved a transfer, only to be vetoed by manager Rafa Benitez who did not have a replacement in place. This time, there is reason to be optimistic that Athletic can get the deal done.
According to a breaking report from Javier Beltran of AS, Athletic Club and Newcastle will begin negotiations once again in June and with both sides expecting the transfer to happen. Beltran says that the transfer fee is expected to be around €15 million.
The report goes on to say that a lot of things will be different this summer. To begin with, Newcastle will have plenty of time to find a replacement which was what held up the deal in the summer. Additionally, the English side is said to be in a state where they need to sell some players to bring in more money for improvements. With Merino not being a guaranteed fixture in the team, he is an expendable piece for the club. Also, seeing as how the two clubs had already agreed a transfer a few months ago, there is already a basis that has been built that should facilitate discussions this summer.
With Merino’s transfer saga going on for over two years now, Athletic fans aren’t going to believe anything until it is official, and rightfully so. If the Lions are able to bring Merino to the San Mamés he would be another young pillar on which to build the club. He has proven that he can be a versatile midfielder who can defend, create chances, and score goals for himself. That complexity would be a welcome addition to Athletic. Fans will still have to wait a few months before finding out if the 21-year-old will be coming to Bilbao, but for now there is certainly reason to be optimistic.