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Mikel Merino

Newcastle's Merino delighted with 'better than Fabregas' chants

12:11 PM GMT 31/08/2017
Mikel Merino Newcastle United
The 21-year-old midfielder was amused to earn the praise of his new side's supporters and revealed his admiration for Rafael Benitez

EXCLUSIVE

Mikel Merino was delighted to hear Newcastle United fans label him better than Cesc Fabregas after his bright start at the club.

The 21-year-old midfielder joined the newly-promoted Premier League side from Borussia Dortmund on an initial loan deal, which includes an obligation to buy him after 20 appearances.

Newcastle 21/10 to beat Swansea

The Spain Under 21 international has played in all three of Newcastle's league games this season and has made an immediate impression on fans.

And Merino is happy to hear the amusing chant the Magpies fans have already made about him.

"I was very amused," he told Goal. "'He comes from Spain, he has a lot of class and he's better than Fabregas', they more or less sing. I saw it on Twitter, it was very funny."

Merino had signed a five-year deal with Dortmund in February 2016 after joining from Osasuna but was coveted by several sides this summer after making just nine appearances in all competitions.

A return to Spain was raised as a possibility, but he opted to team up with Rafael Benitez.

"It was a busy summer. I think [Newcastle] was the right decision. Newcastle pushed for me, and what a player wants is to feel loved and valued to prove what he is capable of doing," he said. "Newcastle gave me that. 

"The city is very nice, the team is great, the coach is one of the best there is and I can learn a lot from him, so in the end it's a place where I can learn a lot.

"I wanted Benitez to be at Newcastle, and it struck me that he trusted me. He is one of the best and I can learn a lot from him. He is very meticulous, takes all of his options into account and knows a lot about football. That comes in handy when you're young.

"I'm not 100% yet. But eventually I'll get to that level. For now I am adapting to the speed and pace of the Premier League. But I'm becoming a footballer again. I have been able to play at the start of the season start and that is very important."

Despite his limited role in Thomas Tuchel's side last season, the Spaniard says he learned a lot in Germany.

"Last season helped me to see professional football differently. To see that not everything is as beautiful as before. To learn from it, to know that we must continue fighting even if things go wrong. I matured a lot as a footballer and as a person."

Merino was on the Dortmund bus when it was attacked by nail bombs en route to their Champions League clash with Monaco, heavily injuring defender Marc Bartra, and described the terrifying scene as passengers feared for their lives.

"Normally I would be at the back with Marc Bartra, but that day I sat in the front, because there was a free space," he said. 

"I put my headphones at full blast, and as we went 10 metres, I heard a super loud, deafening sound. We did not know where it came from. 

"The bus ended up on two wheels because of the blast. When we looked, we could not see anything. Only smoke. The windows were broken. The people on the floor, no one knew what was going on, some screaming, there was blood. It was a shock. 

"We didn't know whether to move forward or to remain still. We thought that if they had put a bomb and we were not dead, they could arrive with guns to finish the job. 

"If we went ahead, they could have had more bombs as well. At the end, we moved forward and moved away from the area of ​​the explosion. There were people who got off the bus, but I did not dare. We were terrified. It was pretty hard. But in the end what you have is the memory to value what we have more."

Dortmund saw Ousmane Dembele leave for Barcelona this summer in a deal which could reach €147 million, and Merino is sure the 20-year-old attacker will impress at Camp Nou.

"I do not know if I expected him to reach that fee," he added. "But I expected that he was of the level to sign for Barcelona. He is a great player with a bright future. 

"The market is as it is and these figures are paid. Beyond the money that has been spent, the signing is very good for the future that awaits Dembele. He is a great player: plays with both feet, very, very fast, able to change any game at any time. For players like that you pay a lot of money. I suppose it will take some time, but he will do very well in La Liga."