Newcastle United signed Mikel Merino permanently in October 2017 from Borussia Dortmund, just months after initially signing him on loan last summer. He impressed during the early fixtures of the last campaign, but then lost his place in the starting lineup following injury.

Rafael Benitez preferred Jonjo Shelvy and Mo Diame ahead of Merino in midfield, and the Spanish media hope the former Liverpool and Real Madrid manager no longer requires his compatriot’s services at St James’ Park.

Real Betis are interested in landing the 21-year-old in the summer transfer window, as is now being reported every day in Spain. Spanish newspaper Marca claims the Los Verdiblancos are ready to hand Merino a long-term contract to join them. Betis are also willing to offer him a “priority role in the team”, if he joins them.

However, Betis will face competition from Athletic Club Bilbao. The Basque club wanted to sign him in the January transfer window. However, Newcastle turned down their approach as they believed he would have a role to play under Benitez in the second half of the season.

Athletic will now look to “sit down with Newcastle” and try to get the deal done before the start of San Fermín, a week-long festival that will kick start in the city of Pamplona from July 6th.

The Magpies are said to be ready to “formalise a friendly transfer”.