Newcastle midfielder Mikel Merino has reportedly notified Rafa Benitez of his intentions to leave the club in the summer.
The report, which comes courtesy of TEAMTalk, will come as a surprise to Newcastle fans, who only recently saw Merino agree a five-year permanent deal at St. James Park after making his loan switch from Borussia Dortmund permanent in January.
Merino has, according to the report, grown frustrated at his lack of first team involvement in recent times while Athletic Bilbao are ready to offer him an escape route, which would be welcomed by the 21-year-old who is keen on a move back to the Basque country.
Merino started the season as a mainstay in the Newcastle midfield and put in performances that saw him establish himself as fan favourite in the early part of the Premier League season, but has found minutes hard to come by in recent weeks - starting in just three of the last thirteen league games.
Benitez's decision to drop Merino has been justified by the club's successful run of results of late. Having recorded just one loss in their last seven Premier League outings, the Magpies current form looks set to save them from relegation back to the Championship.
With Benitez trying to build a squad worthy of a top half finish, losing a young player of great potential in Merino would be a huge blow. However, question marks remain as to how long Benitez will stay in the job himself - uncertainty permeates around Newcastle and if funds are again stymied this summer it could be hard to envisage him staying on in the role.