Barcelona and Real Madrid are reportedly set to go head-to-head in pursuit of 25-year-old Spanish international Mikel Merino.

According to a report by Catalan outlet El Nacional, the two biggest clubs in Spain are vying for the signature of Mikel Merino. The Spanish international, who has a €60 million release clause in his deal with Real Sociedad, is being courted by Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Mikel Merino joined Real Sociedad from Newcastle United in the summer of 2018 and has since established himself as one of the most consistent midfielders in La Liga. A mainstay in the middle of the park for La Real, the 25-year-old has made 128 appearances while chipping in with 15 goals and 14 assists along the way.

At the same time, Merino has also established himself as a regular feature for the Spanish national side, with Luis Enrique, an admirer of his talents. And as fate would have it, the Spain head coach could be a factor in deciding the player’s next club, with Barcelona and Real Madrid keen on signing him.

Barcelona are touted to be in the market for midfield reinforcements, and for a good reason. The Catalan giants chose not to bring in a replacement for Ilaix Moriba and Miralem Pjanic in the summer transfer window, forcing them to rely on teenage midfielders Gavi and Nico Gonzalez.

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With Pedri already suffering from playing multiple games a week in the past year, Barcelona cannot risk burning out Gavi and Nico Gonzalez, especially with Sergio Busquets on the wrong side of 30 and in need of having his minutes managed. As a result, Barcelona have been linked with Thiago Alcantara, Denis Zakaria and Ryan Gravenberch, among others, with Merino also a viable target.

On the other hand, Real Madrid are laying down a succession plan for Luka Modric, who is in the final phase of his storied career. In addition, Toni Kroos is well into his thirties, while Dani Ceballos and Isco have been deemed surplus to requirements at the Santiago Bernabeu. So, it is hardly surprising that Real Madrid intend to bolster their midfield at the earliest, with Merino an option worth considering.

Barcelona and Real Madrid will have to pay a pretty penny to sign Merino, who has a €60 million release clause in his deal with Real Sociedad. However, if Luis Enrique has his way, the Spanish international will go to Camp Nou instead of the Bernabeu. With competition for his signature ramping up, it will be interesting to see where Merino ends up if he leaves Real Sociedad.

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