Newcastle United-linked official spotted 'tapping up' £51m star over St James' Park return

Newcastle United-supporting referee Michael Oliver. (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)Newcastle United-supporting referee Michael Oliver. (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)
Newcastle United-supporting referee Michael Oliver. (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)
The Newcastle United-supporting official supposedly asked the player to return to St James' Park.

Newcastle United fan and Premier League referee Michael Oliver has hilariously took it upon himself to try and help the Magpies' summer transfer business.

United head into the upcoming transfer window without a sporting director following Dan Ashworth's departure, with the signing of new players left in the hands of head coach Eddie Howe and head of recruitment Steve Nickson, while negotiations will likely fall under Amanda Staveley and Mehrdad Ghodoussi's remit.

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Work is already underway and one man Oliver is keen to see back in black and white is none other than Real Sociedad midfielder Mikel Merino.

Merino previously spent the 2017-18 campaign at Newcastle, initially joining on loan from Borussia Dortmund before making the move permanent for a reported £6.5million. He made 25 appearances with his solitary goal coming in a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace at St James' Park.

His stay on Tyneside, in many ways, was short but sweet when Sociedad activated his £10.5m release clause. Newcastle fans were disappointed to see the back of Merino, even more so given the heights he has hit in La Liga since.

The 27-year-old, now an established Spain international, has made 232 appearances in five-and-a-half-years in San Sebastian and last season was named in the La Liga Team of the Season as Sociedad qualified for the Champions League.

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And Sociedad surprised many when they won Group D to set up a last 16 encounter with Paris Saint-Germain. This, of course, would have been Newcastle had they beaten AC Milan on the final matchday.

The French champions won the first leg 2-0 at the Parc des Princes before completing the job at the Reale Arena on Tuesday night, winning 2-1 where Merino netted a late consolation goal for the hosts. And it was at the end of the game where, Oliver - appointed as match referee - was supposedly spotted asking Merino to return Newcastle (see video below).

Football Espana on X, formerly known as Twitter, posted: "If you look very closely around the 36 second mark, you can clearly see referee Michael Oliver lobbying #RealSociedad captain Mikel Merino to re-join #NUFC."

Then, in the story, they wrote: "Oliver and Merino were also seen chatting once the full time whistle was blown.

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"The referee, who is widely known in England as being a Newcastle United fan, is reported to have asked Merino whether he’d be willing to re-join the Premier League side, whom he played for between 2017 and 2018."

Merino's price tag is reportedly set at £51m, although there are some doubts over that figure with the player out-of-contract in 2025. But whatever the fee, it's fair to stay Newcastle fans would welcome back Merino with open arms.

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