Linked with a move to United, Chelsea and now West Ham, Football Whispers take a closer look at the Belgian
Napoli are currently in a fight with Roma for an automatic UEFA Champions League place, and there’s no way without the performances of 30-year-old Dries Mertens that Maurizio Sarri’s team wouldn’t be close.
Linked with a move to Manchester United, Chelsea and now West Ham United, Football Whispers take a closer look at the Belgian forward and what has made this season such a massive success.
Who is Dries Mertens and where does he come from?
After bouncing around with a couple of different youth sides in Belgium, Mertens made his Jupiler League – the Dutch second division – debut for AGOVV Apeldoorn while on loan from Belgian side KAA Gent in 2006.
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He played 90 minutes in the season opener against SC Cambur, but wouldn’t feature again until the following campaign.
He signed permanently with the Dutch side and the next two years were a massive success, adding 15 goals and six assists during the 2007/08 season, and 13 and seven the following year.
That summer, he had gained enough of a reputation that FC Utrecht paid £510,000 for his services, taking him to the Eredivisie.
Playing as a winger, he took to life in the top flight well, scoring 16 times and adding 22 assists in two seasons. In 2010 he picked up two assists as they came from 2-0 down to knock Celtic out of the Europa League qualifiers.
PSV Eindhoven pounced, paying over £7million for the Belgian winger, but it wasn’t until his move to Napoli in 2013 that his career and development as a centre-forward really took flight.
In 130 Serie A fixtures, Mertens has scored 47 games and 32 assists. After they lost Gonzalo Higuaín to Juventus, Sarri needed a replacement upfront and surprisingly it has been the Belgian that has stepped up.
The forward has already bettered his best goal return for the club, but might fall just short of the 27 he scored for PSV Eindhoven in 2012.
Mertens could be on the mvoe this summer
“I think Dries is an extraordinary player,” said the Napoli coach. “But also at this moment the team is producing many chances to facilitate him.”
Throughout the majority of his career as a wide player, Mertens style and skillset always suggested he would be able to excel as a central striker.
Using his pace, he can make well-timed runs which are difficult for any defender to track. And once away, he’s unlikely to be caught.
Whenever he’s through on goal, Mertens has always impressed with not only his technique when hitting the ball, but with the composure he shows in the final third.
When asked about the impact his player was having through the middle, Sarri was quick to praise Mertens performances, not his role: “Mertens is a great player who can make the difference as a winger or a centre-forward, so frankly he’s great regardless of his role. At this moment I’d talk more about his form, because moving him by 10 metres isn’t going to change much.”
Too quick to be labeled a ‘False-9’ the former FC Utrecht player has developed into an all-round centre-forward, able to play deeper, linking with the wider forwards, or playing off the shoulder of the last defender, waiting for a pass he can latch on to.
How much will he cost?
As Napoli try and agree a new deal for the forward, one that will not only increase his release clause to £70million for the current deal that could cost any Premier League suitors around £50million this summer.
His contract runs until 2018 and with English clubs able to offer more in terms of wages, there could be a deal to be done with the Serie A side.
Where is his most likely destination this summer?
At 30 years old, the amount of money that any potential buyer would need to pay makes little sense in terms of an investment.
However, if Manchester United and Chelsea cool their interest, West Ham would be in a stronger position.
The mostly likely scenario would be a prolonged stay in Naples. A rumoured link to English clubs will be used for the player and his agent to get the best deal possible, giving him a new contract and Napoli get to keep their star striker.