Mikel Merino looked like the signing of the season when he first arrived at Newcastle from Borussia Dortmund last summer.

The Spaniard immediately established himself as the Magpies’ key man, dictating play from the centre of midfield and scoring a late winner at home to Crystal Palace.

Merino was injured in that game and struggled to regain form and fitness, but Newcastle fans were still adamant that the club should reject advances from Athletic Bilbao in January.

Those same supporters may now think a little harder or at least ponder the potential fee if there were to be another approach.

Merino has gone backwards since his injury and was some way off the pace at Liverpool on Saturday, turning in the worst performance of any player in black and white.

Isaac Hayden has similarly struggled for game time, with Mohamed Diame and Jonjo Shelvey impressing, but Merino’s reputation and likely transfer fee make him a saleable asset at St James’ Park.

Rafa Benitez will back himself to get the best out of Merino once more but, equally, few could blame him if he took the opportunity to move the midfielder on in the summer.

While it would be a real shame to see a promising talent’s Newcastle career end in such a way, Rafa needs money and Merino simply is not cutting it right now.

With Shelvey on the sidelines, Merino has the opportunity to prove his worth once again but he must be better than he was at Anfield, where he looked a shadow of his former self.