From Diame to Merino: What a difference a year makes for Newcastle's midfield

Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez reacts during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Liverpool at St. James Park on October 1, 2017 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.

Newcastle United have gone from having one of their most maligned midfielders to one of their best in recent memory.

Renato Sanches of Swansea City and Mikel Merino of Newcastle United during the Premier League match between Swansea City and Newcastle United at Liberty Stadium on September 10, 2017 in...

When Newcastle United signed Mikel Merino on loan from Borussia Dortmund this summer, few Magpies fans would have expected the 21-year-old to hit the ground running in such impressive fashion, especially when they had grown used to the below-par showings of Mo Diame the previous season.

But it has been an incredible transformation for a Newcastle side that is reaping the rewards of taking a risk on the young Spaniard, with Diame barely getting a look-in as a result.

Newcastle United's Spanish midfielder Mikel Merino (L) vies with Liverpool's Senegalese midfielder Sadio Mane (R) during the English Premier League football match between Newcastle United...

Last season, the 30-year-old played 41 times in all competitions, scoring six goals and providing three assists in the process. And yet time and again Newcastle fans bemoaned his overall contribution, crying out for a change of personnel.

Luckily for the St. James' Park faithful they got just that, and on early evidence Merino is going to go down as one of their most impressive additions in recent years.

Mo Diame of Newcastle in action during the EFL Cup Quarter-Final match between Hull City and Newcastle United at KCOM Stadium on November 29, 2016 in Hull, England.

Securing the 21-year-old on a long-term deal is surely one of Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez's primary concerns, despite the fact that Merino has only featured seven times for his new side.

It did not take long for his class to shine through, and Diame may already know that his Newcastle career is coming to an end with Merino set to do what the Senegalese player simply could not.


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