Real Sociedad are confident they will prise midfielder Mikel Merino from Newcastle’s grasp after just one season on Tyneside.
The Spaniard, who turned 22 last week, has been persistently linked with a move back to his native country in recent months with Athletic Bilbao, Sevilla and Real Betis all having been credited with an interest in him.
However, Sociedad appear to have stolen a march in the race to activate a release clause in his contract which could see him leave for a little more than £10million.
Asked if he had landed his target, head coach head coach Asier Garitano told Radio Euskadi: “Until it becomes official, no, and I think it still has not been finalised.
“He’s someone I’ve known for many years, when we played against Osasuna with Leganes in the Segunda Division.
“It could be a good signing for us. He has been at important clubs like Borussia Dortmund and Newcastle and he has a great future ahead of him. We hope it can be completed.”
Merino’s exit would come as a blow to both Magpies boss Rafael Benitez and fans who were hugely impressed by his early displays for the club.
He arrived from German side Borussia Dortmund in July last year, initially on a season-long loan deal.
Merino started so well that Newcastle exercised an option to make the transfer permanent and handed him a five-year contract just three months later.
However, injury and the form of Jonjo Shelvey and Mohamed Diame saw him limited to just seven league appearances and only two starts after the turn of the year.
Benitez rates the player highly and wants to keep him but, given the clause in his contract, he will have little option but to let him go should Sociedad stump up the cash.
The Magpies boss has only made one permanent signing this summer – keeper Martin Dubravka, who excelled on loan during the second half of last season – as he attempts to improve on a 10th-placed Premier League finish.