Real Sociedad are reportedly moving closer to signing Mikel Merino from Newcastle United on a £10m deal, after their manager talked up the chances of the deal going through via a release clause being activated in the player's contract.
Merino, 22, joined Newcastle only last season initially on loan, before the Magpies made the deal permanent midway through the season. However, injuries have blighted what appeared to be a promising spell on Tyneside, and now it appears that the Spaniard is set for a return to his native land.
Speaking on Spanish radio, via the Northern Echo, Real Sociedad boss Asier Garitano discussed his club's chances of signing the former Borussia Dortmund man, stating: "It could be a good signing for us. He has been at important clubs like Borussia Dortmund and Newcastle – and, at the age of 21 (sic), he has a great future ahead of him. We hope it can be completed.
"Until it becomes official, no, and I think is still has not been finalised. He’s someone I’ve known for many years, when we played against Osasuna with Leganes in the Segunda Division."
Merino made an impressive start to his career at St James' Park, following his switch from Borussia Dortmund last summer. However, following a back injury, he lost his place in Rafael Benítez's starting lineup, and was frequently used as an impact substitute while the likes of Jonjo Shelvey and Mohamed Diame were preferred options in the centre of midfield.
Given his relative youth and the wildly inflated transfer market, it looks like Real Sociedad will have themselves a real bargain, should they manage to lure the Spaniard back to his home country. Merino has been capped extensively at youth level for Spain, and will be eager to continue his development with regular first team football next season - wherever it may be.
In other news, the Magpies are believed to have joined Crystal Palace in the race to sign two of Japan's top World Cup stars - Mainz striker Yoshinori Muto, and Marseille's Hiroki Sakai. Despite transfers struck on the back of impressive World Cup displays often proving ill-advised, the two Premier League sides believe they have seen enough of the players to make a move.