This summer will make four consecutive transfer windows that Athletic Club have pursued midfielder Mikel Merino. After seeing Borussia Dortmund take him away from Osasuna it looked like the Lions would have no chance of brining the starlet to the San Mamés. However, Merino struggled to play regular minutes in Germany and was then sold to Newcastle last summer where he has been in and out of the lineup. During the winter Athletic actually reached an agreement with Newcastle for Merino, but manager Rafa Benitez vetoed the deal because he couldn’t find a replacement in time. This time around the Basque giants mean business.
Sources say that Merino has already agreed to personal terms with Athletic Club and that the Basques are scheduled to meet with Newcastle in June to negotiate the sale. It is believed that the 21-year-old will cost Athletic around €15 million and the Lions are ready to pay it. However, there may be a new obstacle that may stand in their way this summer.
According to a report from Javier Beltran of AS, Athletic aren’t the only ones interested in Mikel Merino. Until this point it has been clear that both Real Sociedad and Valencia were monitoring the midfielder, but Beltran claims that there are also clubs in England and Germany that have their eye on him as well. He also mentions that some clubs in Spain are on the prowl, but he could be referring to the ones that we already know about. Regardless of who these clubs are, Athletic will have to fend off the competition.
Athletic fans have seen this story before. The club looked set to sign Merino before he was sold to BVB then again before he made the switch to Newcastle. Hearing that there are other clubs interested in Merino may give Athleticzales a queasy feeling at this point now. However, it should be noted that the Lions have a few things working in their favor. To begin with, sources have said that Merino wants to return to Spain which, in theory, should narrow downs potential suitors. To take it a step further he has already agreed to personal terms with Athletic who are set to meet with Newcastle in June. So far Athletic is the only club that have been in talks to sign the player, while others have merely shown interest.
When it comes to football things can always change in an instant, but this time around Athletic Club mean business. President Josu Urrutia is looking to overhaul the squad this summer and seems ready to pay for players like Merino instead of drawing out negotiations trying to lower the asking price like he has done in the past. If €15 million really is what it will cost to sign Merino, Athletic may be able to secure the transfer quickly. Athletic fans already have their fingers crossed, again.