Rafael Benitez on Newcastle United's Mikel Merino's impending departure

Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez looks on during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Burnley at Old Trafford on December 26, 2017 in Manchester, England.

Newcastle United midfielder Mikel Merino looks set to leave St. James' Park to move to Real Sociedad.

Newcastle player Mikel Merino in action during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Stoke City at St. James Park on September 16, 2017 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.

Newcastle United boss Rafael Benitez has admitted to the Chronicle that he is disappointed about Mikel Merino’s imminent departure from Newcastle United.

Merino is set to leave Newcastle to join Real Sociedad this summer, after the Spanish club met his release clause.

Benitez admits that Newcastle are powerless to stop Merino leaving St. James’ Park.

But the Spanish boss is disappointed to be losing such a talented player, all the same.

Newcastle United's Spanish manager Rafael Benitez shouts instructions to his players from the touchline during the English Premier League football match between Burnley and Newcastle...

“It was a pity because obviously he wanted to play more football. He is a young player and he struggled to get back into the team because [Mo] Diame and [Jonjo] Shelvey were doing so well,” Benitez said.

“That meant Merino didn’t get much gametime, then we had three or four Spanish clubs who were interested in him.

“In the end it was something we couldn’t control because he decided to go. We knew that could happen, so we had to be prepared - and in the end we were.”

Merino joined newcastle from Borussia Dortmund last summer, and his loan move was quickly made permanent after an excellent start.

Mikel Merino of Newcastle United celebrates as he scores their first goal during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Crystal Palace at St. James Park on October 21, 2017...

The central midfielder began life on Tyneside brilliantly, with his performances really catching the eye.

However, injury struck and from that moment on, Merino never really managed to get back into the team.

The 22-year-old still looks to have a very bright future, but Newcastle fans look set to have to watch Merino from afar now.

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