Barcelona reportedly following the progress of Real Sociedad's Mikel Merino
According to ‘Noticias de Gipuzkoa’, Barça are following the Real Sociedad midfielder, who had a good season and is highly rated at the age of 23. He can play in various positions across the middle, but it's as a pivote he's at his best. When Asier Illarramendi got injured, he sat in front of the defence to great effect. It's the position he has played for Spain U21s at the European Championships in Italy and San Marino this summer, too.
Mikel Merino is tall (1.89m) and has a great left foot. He has previously played for Osasuna, Borussia Dortmund and Newcastle United. Barça tried to sign him when he was younger at Osasuna, but couldn't compete with the offer which arrived from Germany.
In any case, Barça's plans aren't immediate and they will see how he develops next season. Merino has a contract with La Real until 2023 and a release clause of 45 million euros until 2021, which increased to 50 million for the final two years of his deal.
Barça are preaching patience. They want to see how Frenkie de Jong adapts to the team and where he fits in. The Dutchman can play in any of the three midfield positions. The Catalan club, though, are doing their homework so they have different options in the future.
However, that doesn't mean they don't have faith in the academy. Oriol Busquets will do preseason with the first team and is then likely to go on loan. If he progresses, he would then return to the first team. The scouting of players like Merino is in the case that, for whatever reason, things don't work out as the club hope with Busquets.