To Premier League fans, the name Mikel Merino doesn’t exactly strike too much of a chord. That’s a player who didn’t shine in England and after a brief spell at Newcastle United, but soon left for Spain in an attempt to revitalise his career. Fast forward to today, Merino seems to have found his place in world football just like top rated casinos in 2020 who are starting to feature as prominently.

The former Osasuna man had joined Borussia Dortmund in the summer of 2016. After making just nine appearances in all competitions, he was sent out to Newcastle on loan. The Magpies got 25 appearances out of the midfielder and after signing him permanently in the summer of 2018, they sold him permanently to Real Sociedad within days, no doubt using a service like checkerwise to check his credentials.

For a player who was only about 21 at that time, it now seems that it was too early for him back then. Still only 23, Merino has made an impact at the Basque club since last season.

Last season, Merino made 29 appearances in the La Liga for La Real. He scored three goals and racked up just as many assists. Playing predominantly as a central midfielder in a 4-2-3-1 formation, the Spaniard was a box-to-box talent. He won 1.7 tackles per game and made 1 interception per game.

He won as many as 2.9 aerial duels, also completing one dribble per game for the side. He showed that he isn’t exactly an attacking midfielder that he was often used as, playing only 0.4 key passes per game for the club.

But he has stepped up a gear this season. That isn’t to say that last season was poor, but this season has seen a rise in some key stats.

He has again been playing a central midfielder, having scored twice and assisting once. But he has won as many as 4.7 aerial duels per game- a sign of his physical improvement. That is also highlighted by him winning 2.3 tackles per game and making 1.5 interceptions per game. Both of them are the highest he has ever made in his career.

He’s become one of those players who will help the team take control of games from midfield. That allows the more creative players like Mikel Oyarzabal, Martin Odegaard and Adnan Januzaj to shine. If not for Merino’s abilities to control the midfield area, these flair players might not be doing as well as they do. Willian Jose might not be scoring as many goals as he does.

This is a player who has shown constant signs of improvement. He already admitted to learning from his experiences when he had joined Newcastle.

He said: “Last season helped me to see professional football differently. To see that not everything is as beautiful as before. To learn from it, to know that we must continue fighting even if things go wrong. I matured a lot as a footballer and as a person.”

This tells a lot about Merino’s maturity as a person. He knows how to go step by step and learn from experiences instead of being bogged down by them. That is why, despite the bad spell at the St. James Park, he is back to dominating games all over again.

And the best part is- he has time on his side. At 23, he can easily still play another season and then move to a bigger club in Europe. That would be a move he would deserve, considering how he’s improved and has risen up from bad experiences at two well-known clubs.