Athletic Club Are Done Playing Games With Mikel Merino Who Is Expected To Sign With Real Sociedad
Athletic Club have been chasing Mikel Merino for over two years now and a few months ago it looked certain that they would finally land their man. The Basques had reached personal terms with the Newcastle midfielder in January and were set to come back for him this summer, but things took a sharp turn. Other clubs like Real Betis and Real Sociedad soon became interested and Athletic don’t want to play any more games.
A few weeks ago the Lions submitted an offer to Merino for five years that would also see him earn competitive wages. The other clubs also put similar offers on the table and it looked like the decision would ultimately be up to the 21-year-old. However, Merino’s agency, Bahía International, have played the three teams against each other in order to get the best deal and Athletic have had enough according to sources in Bilbao.
According to several media outlets Athletic have not improved their offer and are calmly waiting for an answer from the midfielder who is expected to return from his vacation in New York on Monday. The Lions have made it clear that they are not going to get involved in a bidding war and have told Merino that if he wants to play at the San Mamés they will happily pay what it takes to sign him, but they aren’t going to compete against other clubs for the transfer.
While there is still a chance that Mikel Merino could choose to accept Athletic’s offer, the general feeling in the Basque Country is that he has chosen to join Real Sociedad. La Real are said to have offered him a contract that would see him become one of the highest paid players in the team and will only contain a minimal release clause, which is something Athletic did not want. At the same time, Real Sociedad are believed to have told Merino that he can be a starter at the Anoeta, while Athletic will not guarantee him minutes without earning his place.
The release clause demand was likely a big issue for Athletic. If Merino has truly asked for a low clause that will allow him to leave if another big club comes along, that is something that would not have sat well with Athletic. If they do sign the 21-year-old it will be with the idea of him being a pillar of the future, not someone who is already thinking about leaving in a few years. Merino could become a great player for Athletic if he came to the San Mamés, but if he doesn’t want to be at the club then they aren’t going to waste their time with all of this transfer drama.
Meanwhile, new manager Eduardo Berizzo is also said to be really high on Unai López which could have played a role in the club’s decision not to go all out for Mikel Merino. Peru Nolaskoain and Oihan Sancet’s call to train with the first team also shows that the Argentine is already thinking about the future of the midfield and believes that there is already plenty of talent even if Merino doesn’t come.
Make no doubt about it, Athletic would love to sign Mikel Merino. Their offer is still on the table and he could choose to come to the San Mamés. That being said, the club is not going to play games or be roped in by a sports agency trying to play teams against each other just to get a better deal. Athletic’s offer is basically a “take it or leave it” at this point. If Merino wants to wear the Txurrigorri shirt that would be great, but if he doesn’t they are ready to move on. For now the Lions will wait for his final decision which is expected to come within the next week.