Mikel Merino threatened to blossom into a top talent at Newcastle United but his career quickly tumbled following a promising opening to life in the North East.
Whispers of “this is Merino’s world and we’re just living in it” were relatively commonplace when the Spaniard was first seen operating at St James’ Park.
A loan deal was quickly made permanent but from that moment forward he seemed to fall out of Rafa Benitez’s plans and into the wilderness.
Real Sociedad capitalised on his dwindling importance and sanctioned a £10m move in the summer of 2018.
Almost two years later, the Spaniard is now worth £27m according to the popular football website Transfermarkt.
Transfermarkt recently updated their valuations of many players worldwide and Merino was a major market mover, rising from £18m to £27m.
That he was valued at just £7.2m in December 2018 speaks volumes about how rapidly he has developed in La Liga, and perhaps it’s a rise that will leave a lingering feeling of regret at St James’ Park.
It’s been an interesting journey for the 23-year-old midfielder, and there are a handful of notable landmarks to explain his rise in value.
Here, Football FanCast takes a look at three of those…
A groin injury disrupted Merino during the early stages of his maiden campaign with Sociedad, but he didn’t look back once he returned at the end of November.
He established himself as a regular in the starting XI following the turn of the year and finished the season with three goals and five assists from 24 starts in midfield.
Given the left-footed maestro typically operates from deep, the season return was certainly eye-catching, while eight yellow cards and one red showcased a touch of nastiness which has become synonymous with some of the great midfielders in history.
Though he was not an integral player, Merino still played 256 minutes as Spain triumphed in the European U21 Championships in 2019.
He was vital to their qualification to the tournament, though, scoring once and assisting twice in five games.
The former Magpie’s biggest contribution came in a 2-1 win over Belgium in the group stage as he played all 90 minutes alongside Arsenal’s Dani Ceballos in midfield.
Real Madrid and Barcelona have experienced their fair share of problems this season and Sociedad capitalised on the former’s demise in February.
In a dramatic 4-3 thriller at the Santiago Bernabeu, Merino scored what proved to be the decisive winning goal as the visitors progressed to the semi-final of the Copa Del Rey.
The Basque country outfit have since progressed to the final of the competition with a 3-1 aggregate win over CD Mirandes.
Merino could have his first club trophy come the end of the season.