Newcastle United signed 21-year-old exciting Spanish talent Mikel Merino on a season-long loan deal worth £2.5m, from Borussia Dortmund.
Newcastle fans should be excited to see him pull on the black and white shirt, as the youngster will almost undoubtedly be an upgrade on current midfield incumbents Jack Colback and Isaac Hayden.
The similarity in age between Hayden and Merino makes it difficult to tell who will be the better asset of the two, however the new signing will definitely be an upgrade on Jack Colback.
Colback has never really been trusted by Benitez to play in any other position than central midfield. Merino on the other hand can play in that position, defensive midfield or at centre-back making him a much more versatile asset that Benitez will be able to deploy in a variety of situations.
Furthermore Colback is 27-years-old and should really be playing at the peak of his potential. In comparison Merino is only 21-years-old and has plenty of time to develop into an even better player.
The young Spaniard is also known for his range of passing. He has shown during his time at Osasuna and Dortmund that he can deliver long and short passes with a high degree of accuracy, such that he can add creativity to Newcastle's midfield.
This is something Colback has never really shown the ability to do and also gives Merino traits similar to current Newcastle star-player Jonjo Shelvey, something that will make him an instant hit on Tyneside.
Merino is also regarded as a highly motivated player, as well as a professional, such that Benitez also believes he will become a valuable asset at the club.
“He’s a good size, has quality on the ball and he’s very, very focused and professional. Hopefully, he’s the kind of player we can improve a lot – he certainly has the mentality to get better and better," Benitez told NUFC.
This level-headedness will also make Merino an upgrade on Colback who regularly picks up yellow cards in games, due to his often rash behaviour.
Merino is also a very hard worker, something that Colback also offered. However what Merino brings on top of that is a six foot two aerial presence.
Despite playing few games, he won 18 of his 19 attempted tackles last season. Furthermore at Merino won over 60% of his aerial duels throughout his career at Osasuna and with the Spanish youth sides.
Overall Merino will certainly bring a combativeness and creativity to Newcastle's midfield, via his box-to-box style of play. Therefore Merino certainly gives Benitez more options in central areas and could push Colback out of first team contention.