Mikel Merino is close to ending his one-season stay at Newcastle after Real Sociedad activated a release clause in his contract, Press Association Sport understands.
The 22-year-old midfielder his set to head back to his native Spain less than eight months after signing a five-year contract at St James’ Park, with a medical imminent.
Merino has grown unsettled after injury and the form of Jonjo Shelvey and Mohamed Diame left him sitting on the bench for much of the second half of last season.
Manager Rafael Benitez was delighted to have captured the player from Borussia Dortmund last summer, initially on a season-long loan deal, and the club’s fans warmed to him instantly as he made a fine start to his career on Tyneside.
However, there has been speculation for several months that the Spain Under-21 international was unhappy at his lack of action and would seek a move during the close season with Athletic Bilbao, Sevilla and Real Betis having also monitored his situation.
His departure has seemed inevitable since it emerged that there was a release clause, understood to be in the region of £10million, in his contract, and the arrival of South Korea international Ki Sung-yueng last week paved the way for his exit.
Merino has made 25 appearances and scored one goal for the Magpies, a late Premier League winner against Crystal Palace in October.
Newcastle continue to work on their own transfer targets, with Nice striker Alassane Plea, Chelsea winger Kenedy and Palace midfielder Andros Townsend among them, although Benitez knows he will need to raise cash from sales if he is to have the spending power he wants this summer.
For that reason, the club has given relegated Stoke a price for Scotland international Matt Ritchie, who is also being tracked by Middlesbrough and Bournemouth, but it is understood none of his suitors have come anywhere near matching the £15million the Magpies believe he is worth.