EXCLUSIVE: Bilbao to swoop for Newcastle midfielder

Athletic Bilbao are lining up a summer deal for Newcastle midfielder Mikel Merino, after he told the club he wants to join the Basque giants.

Merino, who only joined Newcastle on a permanent deal in October after signing an initial season-long loan from Borussia Dortmund, has found life tough going in the North East.

The 21-year-old has been unable to become a regular, but he is also unsettled and TEAMtalk can reveal he has told Rafa Benitez of his desire to leave the club.

Now Bilbao have expressed their desire to sign him, and Merino is keen to move back to his native Basque country.

Merino completed a permanent move to Newcastle from Borussia Dortmund in October 2017 after an impressive start to his career in England

He arrived at St James’ Park on loan in July with the possibility of a full transfer included in the deal, and has done so well on Tyneside that the club handed him a five-year contract.

Manager Rafael Benitez told NUFC TV at the time: “I’m really pleased we have been able to bring Mikel to the club permanently. He has played very well since he joined us.

“He has settled in quickly, has a lot of quality on the ball and is keen to learn – that is a crucial part of his future development.”