Our resident Spanish speaker Norman Riley has cast his eye over an interview between world player of the year-to-be Mikel Merino and giant of Spanish football media, Marca. The results are beautiful and for your consumption below.
Mikel Merino: ‘We are sponges, absorbing what Benítez tells us’
Mikel Merino (born in Pamplona, 1996) has been playing football since he started teething. At the age of only 18, 3 less than his father, he made his debut for Osasuna. At 19 he gained promotion which caught the eye of Borussia Dortmund. Despite the lack of game time at Dortmund he learned a lot and now, under the direction of Benítez, he has started to show it.
Q. It’s obvious to me that Benítez fought hard to get you. Why did you choose Newcastle?
A. The club wanted me and Benítez took a chance on me. The reality is that a player wants to go where he feels wanted. This is important for Rafa and it’s one of the main reasons I’m here. And, above all, because the Premier League is an important and strong league in which I want to grow as a player.
Q. You were linked with Athletic. Was their interest concrete?
A. There were lots of rumours and the media made lots of noises and it even got back to me despite me usually being on the margins of it. Ultimately Newcastle came in and it’s a good move for me. All I want to do right now is focus on the present.
Q. Is it easier to adapt to the Premier League than the Bundesliga?
A. Adapting to the Premier League is tough because it’s strong, very physical, the teams are very clear about how they play and the players are very quick and very good. Adapting physically is hard but it’s easier adapting to the way of life and the dressing room because you’re talking in English. I’m feeling good and my teammates are helping me a lot.
Q. You’ve the second youngest squad in the Premier – an average age of 25 and a half – is this a help or hindrance?
A. I believe it has its pros and cons. The pros are that we’re a very hungry squad that wants to win matches and we’re all focussed on giving the gaffer what he wants. In this sense we’re lucky that we’ve a boss who knows what he wants and we’re like sponges: we absorb everything Benítez tells us.
Q. What does Benítez ask of you?
A. He tells me that in the centre of the field you have to play 1 and 2 touch football, that I have to see where other players are positioned and that I know they’ll be all over me, that I have to play quickly…he’s right. I’ve played barely 3 games and I can confirm that it’s a different rhythm. You have to pay attention to everything he tells you because he knows what he’s talking about.
Q. Newcastle is a club with a great history and at the same time one that has recently been promoted. Has a clear objective been set?
A. We are a great club but we’ve only just come up and we have to understand clearly that this isn’t going to be easy. We lost our first 2 but got back to winning ways at home in our 3rd match. It wasn’t easy, we were playing at home in front of our fans and there was a lot of tension. We had to win and the team fronted up. We all pulled in the same direction and we took the 3 points with a few goals and it felt great. The main objective, realistically, has to be staying-up. Then we can take it from game-to-game, settle and keep collecting points because you never know where you’ll end-up finding yourself.
“I’m happy pulling on the shirt, playing and feeling like a footballer once again”
“We’re a big club and, at the same time, one that has only recently been promoted: the main objective has to be to stay up”
Q. Against West Ham you gave a lesson in how to press. The first 2 goals came from winning the ball back from the opposition.
A. This is what we have to do because on the pitch we don’t have the technical abilities of City, Man United…or the other ‘top’ teams in the Premier League. Therefore we have to trust one another, work together and be a family.
Q. You started in the 1-0 defeat and the 3-0 win, you were the Newcastle player with most completed passes (38) and you won more balls back than anyone else (9)…is your game more rounded amongst the elite?
A. I don’t know if it’s more rounded because I don’t have the evidence from all the games I’ve played. However, I’m happy with the game I played, above all being able to last 90 minutes after a year in which I didn’t play at all. Physically that weakens you but I’m getting back in to a rhythm and I’m happy to be able to finish a match, to feel good, to feel part of the game once more, to feel like a footballer again and to finish a match and to see myself in the shirt.
Q. What has stuck with you from your time at Dortmund?
A. It was a very positive experience seeing another culture, seeing how a top team works, seeing the Champions League…Moreover, you learn how to be a professional when you train with some of the best players in the world. I came from the second division and it’s a huge leap from there to the top. Knowing this will stand me in good stead for this next year as well as the future.
Q. Do you feel that the end to end style of the Premier League will suit your qualities?
A. I love the end to end of the Premier League. I like to have an attacking range, to sprint off and get myself in to the opposition’s goal area…It’s where I feel more comfortable as a player and I think that in a league as open as the Premier you have more opportunities to get yourself in to attacking positions. I like this type of football. I think that I am capable of scoring goals and contributing to the team…the other day I was able to join the attack a couple of times and this makes me happy.
Q. We’ve already spoken about Benítez. Did it help having 4 Spaniards (Manquillo, Merino, Ayoze and Joselu) in the starting 11 against West Ham?
A. Yes, without a single doubt. To have so many players of the same nationality, that you can understand, that you can talk to without any misunderstanding, means that, above all, the team is more together on the pitch. I believe this is important, that there are a good few of us Spaniards in the team means it is more united.
Q. Going on to individuals, what makes Jesús Gámez stand out?
A. He’s a veteran player and he helps us a lot. He’s a big support in the dressing room because he’s always got your back. Talking with him is a pleasure.
Q. What are your thoughts on Manquillo?
A. He’s a really nice lad, really friendly…He’s always attentive when you’re talking to him, he’s always willing to learn and he has so much potential.
Q. How does Ayoze support you (the other Spaniards)?
A. He’s been at Newcastle for 4 years. He knows the team, he knows the club…he understands English football very well and he has quality to spare.
Q. Finally, how do you assess the arrival of Joselu?
A. He’s the most recent arrival. We’ve not yet been able to get to know each other much, but he’s a friendly and happy bloke. He does good work on the pitch.
The above is my interpretation of the article which can be found here:
As with all interpretations, this is how I read it. It is not a literal translation as I try to make any interpretation sound as natural as possible to the language it is being changed in to.