Ebene News – UA – Real Sociedad’s Mikel Merino: ‘I am who I am because of the Premier League’

The former Newcastle midfielder is part of a “daring and attacking” side preparing to face Manchester United in the Europa League

Mikel Merino was going into battle but at least he had a song to sing There is a pause, a smile and he begins, memories of St James’ Park “He is from Spain and he is very classy In fact, he’s better than Fàbregas: it’s Merino, la, la, la, Merino “The words have not left him, so none of that, he said laughing” What I take with me the most, what I will remember as the years go by are the fans, the way they lived football “

Former Newcastle, Manchester United, Manchester City and Arsenal player walks into club This could be the start of a joke; Thursday he is part of the roster of Real Sociedad: Merino, Adnan Januzaj, David Silva and Nacho Monreal face an English side for the first time since leaving the Premier League “We talk about it sometimes”, says Merino “C ‘ is unique, special, we miss it But we are delighted to be here now “

How could they not be? San Sebastian is perhaps the most beautiful city in Spain, with beautiful bays and the highest number of Michelin stars per capita in Europe, and Real might just be playing the most beautiful La Liga Fifth football, they have a Copa del Rey final in three weeks And for Merino it was a homecoming, just 83 km from Pamplona where he was born and raised He was only 22 years old, but he left early and alone , and needed it The move was good for him; its exceptional form, an international appeal followed

The son of a professional footballer and basketball player, Merino started in Osasuna, where his father had played over 200 matches and where he saw Patxi Puñal, Pierre Webó and Savo Milosevic reach a cup final and the Champions League, but left after bringing them back for promotion to the first division He had just turned 20 when he joined Borussia Dortmund under Thomas Tuchel – “very methodical, with a very clear style” – and 21 when he went to Newcastle

“An adventure”, he calls it, but that was not always how the midfielder imagined it “There are times when you are not happy Sometimes people think that ‘a footballer is a machine, but I didn’t know how to do anything for myself, and sometimes you’re lonely I didn’t play a lot and I had to mature The situation forced me You grow or you sink But I don’t regret it pas: I wanted to get out of my comfort zone, take a step forward, see the world, and as a life experience it was enriching: a new country, a new culture “

A new football too In Navarre, they speak of “rasmia”, a will to win, pride, “bad milk”, as Merino calls it: this advantage, a competitiveness and a tenacity that stand out from much of Spain But even then Germany was different and England still different “When people ask about the Premier League, I tell them: when I was going to play, I mentally prepared myself to do war, ”he said “I went out thinking about the fight

“In Spain, as you walk towards the pitch, you think about tactics, positions, the ball – where it needs to go and when In England I didn’t think much about the ball; it was more on the battle I am who I am because of the Premier League: it made me harder, stronger, it taught me to take punches You have a perception of football and you get there and it is not this: it’s more physical, more direct, the game doesn’t stop, they are men with huge bodies I understand why some cannot adapt

“The league changes you I remember Rafa [Benítez] telling me to play fast, one or two touches He said if they hit you they would hit you or take the ball”

When asked who stood out, Merino names Eden Hazard, Philippe Coutinho and Romelu Lukaku: “You couldn’t move him So strong, like something from another sport”

He recalls the “very, very methodical” management of Benítez “It’s a shame that there was this [difficult] relationship with the owner, that the supporters were unhappy You could feel it: the players knew But the fans were spectacular There would be a chance to break and they would go crazy It could be 70 yards from goal and… ”Merino’s eyes opened wide“… And they thought we could score What hurt the most in starting, it’s the fans I was happy but never really felt 100% in football terms And the luck came to come home “

Real Sociedad have paid their release clause, € 12million It was the perfect place, with a powerful identity to match them Twenty Real Sociedad squad members have played for the club at the level junior, 17 are Basque, Merino and Monreal are from neighboring Navarre, which some consider Basque Even Silva, from the Canaries, started on loan at Eibar

“This is very important”, says Merino “When you bring together people who are similar in age, ideology, character, people inside the club who share shared values, a way of feeling this land, everyone comes together We are very humble, decent and normal people which helps us stand up for each other, when you need to say something Join this group and you feel that And we have a style of play that is pleasant for the fans and we like and identify with: bold, offensive “

It starts in the rondo, where a member of the first team says that Merino and Mikel Oyarzabal are the “lawyers”, challenging everyone and everything “Cruyff said that the rondo is the basis of football: he has many characteristics of a match, especially for teams like us, Villarreal, Barcelona, ​​who want the ball: you have to read the movement of the defender, use both feet, control quickly, move fast, keep the There is also this competitiveness It’s a game on a smaller scale; if you can dominate tight spaces you can dominate the pitch We think it’s the best way to win, but it’s also the football we enjoy The more contact with the ball, the more it rolls, the better it’s “

Some of the fun is gone, however The first leg has been moved to Turin due to flight bans to Spain and there will be no fans “Football is an excuse for fun” says Merino “It’s the game and everything, seeing another city, getting together It’s a shame that United fans can’t come to San Sebastián”

How’s it going without fans? “Well, it’s more boring It’s less energy, less tension; it’s calmer, more mental, more tactical When 50,000 people watch you receive the ball, it changes the way you play But we let’s get used to it; it will be weird when the fans come back, which will hopefully be soon because it’s the most important thing in football “The real was denied more than the fans; Turin is their match” at home ‘, and although Juventus’ stadium was chosen from a list of UEFA options due to its similarities to their own revamped arena, it’s painful “Yeah, it is: I’m not gonna lie,” Merino said

“People say that a pitch is a pitch but Anoeta is always at home, even without fans The dimensions, the type of grass, the surface, the landmarks… It is also your floor, your dressing room, your hotel, your routine It’s going to be like two away games, traveling twice, but that’s how it is “

Should the away goals rule then be repealed? “In football, you never know; you might think they have an advantage but that can change away goals rule will still apply, we know that And we don’t mind playing at Turin United have some really good players and in an instant they can kill you: one minute and the damage is done But it’s another chance to prove that we are a very good team playing well everywhere and that our idea will not change We will never forget our identity “

Manchester United FC, Real Sociedad, UEFA Europa League, Manchester, Adnan Januzaj, Ole Gunnar Solskjær

Ebene News – UA – Mikel Merino from Real Sociedad: “I am who I am because of the Premier League ”

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/football/2021/feb/18/real-sociedad-mikel-merino-premier-league-newcastle-manchester-united-europa-league