Although Coronavirus has declared football as abandoned, transfer speculation is brimming across the media. A persistent rumour has been Chelsea signing Dries Mertens, who has a contract at Napoli until the end of this season.
It has been widely reported that the West London club aims to sign the Belgian on a free transfer, which would be a spectacular coup, considering Mertens is the top goalscorer in Gli Azzurri’s history with 121 goals in more than 300 appearances. Chelsea bid a reported £5M for the 32-year-old in the January transfer window, but it was turned down as Mertens was in advanced negotiations over a new contract. As it was looking extremely likely he was to remain at the San Paulo for the foreseeable future, these talks were stalled.
Dries Mertens has accumulated 6 Serie A goals in 21 games this season, underperforming. Although this is obviously not an attractive statistic for Chelsea fans, it could help Mertens request a change of scenery, edging him closer to a move to Stamford Bridge. The forward’s playing style is elegant and slick; fabulous agility and electric acceleration merely mirror Lionel Messi. The former PSV man can play anywhere in attack – no matter where he plays, he maintains his quality.
It is no secret that Chelsea is desperate for an extra forward. Olivier Giroud’s contract ends at the end of the season, along with Willian and Pedro. The Blues have also expressed interest in other attackers, such as Edinson Cavani, Phillipe Coutinho, Jadon Sancho and Pierre Emerick Aubameyang. If Mertens joins Frank Lampard’s team, it is uncertain whether he will adopt a spot on the bench or the team sheet.
Belgian football expert Kristof Terreur has voiced what Mertens seems to want.
“That record was always in his mind, he wanted to get that record,” he told the Transfer Window Podcast.
“He didn’t want to push for a move either, he wasn’t pushing for it, so he wasn’t actively searching.
“It was an interesting phone call from Chelsea.
“I think they wanted him because he could play in four positions.
“He could play as a striker, as a false nine, he can play on the left, he can play on the right, he can play as a No 10.
“He’s quite versatile and him and his missus have always liked London so if there was a chance to move to London, they wouldn’t reject that.”
Surprisingly, Chelsea is going to have to battle Newcastle for the Belgian’s signature – this is due to an approaching takeover from a Saudi-backed consortium, worth approximately £300M. Although it may seem unlikely that a player of Mertens’ quality would favour a move to the North-East, The Magpies would have no trouble financing the deal to form a return to Europe. Chelsea’s interest in the Napoli number 14 is very high, but Mertens’ age would be against The Blues’ plan for the future – at 32-years-old, he is approaching the end of his career. Would Chelsea rather sign someone younger?
RAI journalist Paolo Paganini has reported that there could be positives for Napoli if Mertens left Italy.
“If he [Mertens] went away, Napoli could place a double shot (sign two players, instead of the one attacker they’re expected to).”
Having developed a formidable attacking partnership with fellow Napoli star, Lorenzo Insigne, it is intriguing to see whether Dries Mertens would desire a move away. His loyalty has never been questioned since moving to Naples in 2013, but is it now time for him to move on?