Mikel Merino doesn't hold back on Newcastle United after homesick transfer truth

Many feel Mikel Merino is the one that got away after a short but sweet stint at Newcastle United under Rafa Benitez. Signing on loan before the deal was made permanent in October, the midfielder shone under his fellow countryman who offered advice and support from the dugout and on the training pitch.

Less than a year later, however, and Merino was saying his goodbyes to the north east of England and securing a move to Real Sociedad - a place just 50 or so miles from his hometown of Pamplona.

Despite only playing at St James' Park for one season, Merino clearly still has fond memories of his short spell in England, demonstrated by his outpouring of love towards Newcastle in an interview just this week.

READ MORE: Newcastle rivals' £74.5m exchange highlights FFP reward that encouraged Chelsea and Aston Villa

READ MORE: Newcastle United's lucrative deal 'priority' to boost transfer power as FFP window to reset

When quizzed about time in Toon by Faro de Vigo, Merino replied: "[It was] Very good. What marked on me the most in Newcastle was the stadium, the fans. I think it was a unique life, feeling what St James’ Park is, I will always have it in my heart and mind because it is something unique.

"Get a ball in your area and people go crazy shouting as if you were about to score a goal, and I said ‘let’s see, there are 80 metres to there and they are 11 ahead. It is impossible for us to score a goal’. But people believed it and encouraged you to move forward.”

Many would love to see Merino return to these shores - and the possibility has been mooted at times since his 2018 exit - but the former Borussia Dortmund man is clearly settled in La Liga and excelling at present, featuring in all three of Spain's Euro 2024 games so far.

“If there is one thing I am happy about throughout this journey, it is that the steps I have taken in my career have been perfect and at the right time to continue growing as a footballer who has undergone a growth process. And I don’t want it to end," he continued.

What may have been for Newcastle had Merino decided to stay put on Tyneside.