The Spanish star has become a key player with the La Liga club after joining them from Newcastle United in a £10m deal in July 2018. Despite struggling to make a big impact on Tyneside, Merino reflectly fondly on his time working under former Magpies manager Rafa Benitez at St James Park.
In a recent interview, he told Chronicle Live: “It was great to have a Spanish manager who has made such a big impact in the game and in England with the fans. I learnt a lot of things: what I need to do and what I don’t have to do on the pitch. That helped me a lot. Not only him but all my team-mates and of course in the league, every single match was special and you could learn something different from every training session.”
Merino has made over 170 appearances for Sociedad over the last four seasons and helped the Basque club lift the Copa del Rey in 2020 as they claimed 1-0 win in a final clash with bitter rivals Athletic Bilbao. The former Borussia Dortmund midfielder has continued to impress and is reportedly on Unai Emery’s wish list as the Spaniard looks to put his own stamp on the Villa squad.
However, Spanish outlet Estadio Deportivo have suggested Sociedad are looking to tie down their prize asset by bringing forward planned contract talks from the summer. Merino is under contract until the summer of 2025 and his current deal contains a £56m release clause. But that could all change if the former Spain Under-21 midfield opts to commit his future to the club.