Aurelio De Laurentiis has dropped an update on the future of reported Leeds United transfer target, Dries Mertens.
What’s the talk?
In recent comments made to DAZN (via Le 10 Sport), the Napoli president revealed that he has now made a contract offer to the centre-forward that could see the 35-year-old extend his stay at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium – despite his previous deal having expired at the end of last month.
The Italian went on to claim that the decision as to whether or not the Belgium international does indeed extend his stay in Naples is now very much down to the player himself, with Napoli’s offer of €2.5m-per-year (£2.1m-per-year) – roughly £40k-per-week – being considerably less than his recently expired €8.3m-per-year (£7m-per-year) – roughly £135k-per-week – contract.
However, further reports have suggested that Mertens has rejected De Laurentiis’ proposal, something that would appear to open the door to a move for both Leeds and Newcastle United – both of whom are believed to be keeping a very close eye on the forward’s situation with Napoli ahead of a launching an offer of their own in the coming weeks.
While it is true that Mertens is well into the twilight years of his career at the very top of the professional game, the argument that the 35-year-old would still be an unbelievable signing for Orta to get over the line this summer is a very easy one to make.
Indeed, despite his advancing years, the £3.6m-rated forward was nevertheless in fantastic form for Napoli over his 30 Serie A appearances – only 16 of which came as starts – last season, scoring 11 goals, registering two assists and creating three big chances for his teammates, as well as taking an average of 1.5 shots, making 1.1 key passes and completing 0.6 dribbles per game.
These returns saw the player who Liam Canning dubbed “insane” and Sam Tighe labelled an “unbelievable finisher” average an extremely impressive SofaScore match rating of 7.07, ranking him as Luciano Spalletti’s eighth-best player in the league last time out – playing a key role in Napoli securing a widely unexpected third-place finish in the Italian top flight.
As such, while the signing of Mertens would not be a long-term solution to Leeds’ lack of depth up front, it is undeniable that the 35-year-old still has what it takes to make an impact at the highest level of the game – leading us to believe that, should Orta manage to convince the Belgium of a move to Elland Road on a free this summer, it would be an unbelievable capture for his seventh signing of the window.
AND in other news: Reliable journo now reveals big £31.6m transfer twist, Leeds supporters surely buzzing