Rafa Benitez says he never saw the signing of Mikel Merino as a risk – even though he’d never played in England.
The Spanish midfielder’s season-long loan at Newcastle United was this week turned into a permanent move.
I think he can go on to play for Spain. He’s progressing and improving.Rafa Benitez
Benitez – who has long known Merino’s father Angel – has tracked him for a number of years.
And United’s manager was always confident that Merino – who had been at Borussia Dortmund – could play in the Premier League.
“When I decided to monitor him and then sign him, we were talking about a player with potential that we knew from the Under-21s with Spain and with Osasuna,” said Benitez.
“It wasn’t a risk, because we knew about his mentality and quality. His father was a football player and I knew him, so there were a lot of positives.
“People are wondering what will happen in the future, but, in the meantime, we have to enjoy the player.”
Merino has signed a five-year deal at St James’s Park.
“We’re really pleased,” said Benitez. “He’s a good player – a good professional – and he’s been working hard from the first day.
“The fans love him and there are a lot of positives. We had Jamaal Lascelles signing a new contract too, so there has been a lot of good news and that is good for the club.”
Merino triggered a permanent move after featuring in all seven of the club’s Premier League games so far this season.
Benitez said: “It was really done. Everyone was wondering what was going on, but it was easy for us.
“He had to play a number of games, and it was clear he would do it and it would be done.
“We are very happy with that.”
Benitez believes Merino will one day play for Spain at senior level.
He said: “I think he can go on to play for Spain. He is progressing and improving.”