Mikel Merino has NOT told Newcastle he wants to join Athletic Bilbao

Mikel Merino
Mikel Merino
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Mikel Merino has NOT told Rafa Benitez that he wants to quit Newcastle United.

A report this week claimed that the midfielder, signed last year from Borussia Dortmund, had informed Benitez that he wanted to join Athletic Bilbao.

However, the Echo understands that Merino, while frustrated at a lack of playing time in recent months, has not indicated that he wants to leave St James’s Park in the summer.

Bilbao’s interest in Merino was leaked in January, but the Basque club, which only signs players from the region, did not make a bid for Pamplona-born Merino, a Spain Under-21 international.

Merino – who had a spell out with a back injury late last year – has found his opportunities limited by the form of Jonjo Shelvey and Mohamed Diame in midfield and didn't even make the bench against Huddersfield last weekend.

Speaking last month, Benitez said the 21-year-old had to “work harder” in training to force his way back into his starting XI.

“When Mikel was playing well, Jonjo needed to work harder,” said Benitez.

“Now Jonjo’s doing well, so Mikel has to work harder. That’s the good thing about competition.”