Belgium striker Dries Mertens would consider China move after contract is up with Napoli
- The 31-year-old has one year left with the Italian giants
- Seeks advice about the CSL from teammates Carrasco and Witsel
Napoli forward Dries Mertens rejected big money from the Chinese Super League (CSL) last season but is not ruling out a move in the near future.
“You never know – in one year I finish my contract in Naples so maybe then,” Mertens revealed to The Post in a recent phone interview.
The 31-year-old Belgian international, whose contract runs out in 2020, previously turned down a Chinese deal that would have “guaranteed wealth for his children and grandchildren”, according to Niewsblad.
But Mertens clarified, “It’s not only that. I just preferred to stay in Europe for my development. I was still on the bench at the beginning in Naples, then I started to play and I wanted to enjoy my moments. I worked so hard to get into the team and I didn’t want to leave – that would have been too easy.”
The Napoli favourite has found himself starting on Carlo Ancelotti’s bench for much of this season but has scored in his last three outings, including one against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League group stages and a dramatic last-minute equaliser against Roma in Serie A last weekend.
Rumours continue to swirl around a move to English Premier League giants Chelsea, with Mertens’ former coach Maurizio Sarri at the helm. The Italian was instrumental in converting Mertens from a winger to one of Europe’s most lethal strikers last season and could tussle for a place at Stamford Bridge. Mertens, who was discussing Belgian football tool SenseBall with the Post, has scored 95 goals in 248 games since joining Napoli in 2013.
But with international teammates Yannick Carrasco playing for CSL outfit Dalian Yifang and Axel Witsel recently returning to Europe from a stint with Tianjin Quanjian, could yet another Belgian star be swayed into a move to the Mainland?
“I spoke a lot with Witsel and Carrasco and they are actually quite positive about the soccer there,” said Mertens. “I spoke to Carrasco [recently] and he said he’s getting used to it and his team is getting more points.
“At the beginning he said he didn’t know how to find his place in the team, but now he’s feeling better. With Axel, even though he’s moved away, he said he still enjoyed his time.”
After helping his country to third-place at the 2018 Russia World Cup – Belgium’s best finish – and scoring one of the goals of the tournament against Panama, Mertens is determined to win more with manager Roberto Martinez.
“I think after the World Cup countries are looking at us differently,” he said. “They see that we’re playing better and winning every game and it’s very important for us to stay at that level.
“Playing with Martinez really helps us, he expects us to be the best at every training and you can see that we’re taking steps with that.”