Newcastle United midfielder Mikel Merino looks set to move back to Real Sociedad this week, according to reports from Spain.
Merino, whom the Magpies signed from Borussia Dortmund only last summer, has been linked with numerous clubs in his native Spain for several weeks now - including Athletic Bilbao - but it appears that La Real have won the race for his signature.
Merino, 22, started the 2017/18 Premier League season brightly with Newcastle United, displaying a variety of passing skills and deft touches - as well as a crucial goal against Crystal Palace - that quickly endeared him to the club, and the Magpies moved to make his loan move permanent midway through the season.
However, a niggling back injury would sideline the Spaniard for much of the season (he only played in 25 matches in all competitions), and he eventually lost his place in the starting XI to the midfield duo of Jonjo Shelvey and Mohamed Diame.
Merino told the Shields Gazette in May that he would 'go away and clear his mind' in the summer following the unfortunate injury spell he endured, and additional comments from the Magpies manager last season haven't exactly shown that the Toon boss is adamant Merino will stay.
“I think that he was unlucky with that injury and also Jonjo and Diame were playing much better," Benitez said.
And now, according to Spanish publication Marca (via the Shields Gazette), La Liga side Real Sociedad have made serious steps to bring the Spanish U-21 international to Spain and consider this week to be 'decisive' in terms of signing the midfielder.
Losing Merino would be disappointing for Newcastle but not unexpected, given owner Mike Ashley's unwillingness to invest properly in the squad, preferring to use player sales as a source of future transfer funds in a cruel 'recycling' policy that has made him a villain on Tyneside for eternity.