Napoli and Dries Mertens won their first major trophy in six years after beating Juventus 4-2 on penalties in the final of the Coppa Italia on Wednesday night. Despite failing to make a mark on the big occasion, Mertens played a huge role in Napoli’s journey to the final as the Belgian scored a crucial goal against Inter Milan in semi-finals, which helped the Partenopeis to register a 2-1 aggregate win against their Serie A rivals.
Dries Merten’s previous contract with the club was about to expire at the end of the season, and there were rumours of him leaving Napoli as a free agent this summer. Chelsea, alongside several other European sides, were credited with showing interest in snapping him up on a free transfer.
However, just hours before the final, Mertens signed a contract extension with the club. The 33-year-old, who is currently playing his seventh season at Napoli, was rewarded a two-year extension, with an auxiliary option for the third.
Dries Mertens is Napoli’s all-time leading goalscorer
After scoring the first-half equalizer against Inter in the semi-finals of the Coppa Italia, Dries Mertens became Napoli’s all-time leading goalscorer, leaving Marek Hamsik behind.
The 33-year-old has now scored a total of 122 goals in 310 appearances across all competitions for the Italian outfit. The Belgian superstar was previously tied with Marek Hamsik on 121 goals each, having surpassed Diego Maradona’s tally of 115 a few months back.
In Serie A only, the versatile attacker has managed to find the back of the net on 90 occasions, closing in on another record of reaching the three-figure mark.
Moreover, when it comes to performing in big European nights, Dries Mertens has passed with flying colours, scoring several important goals in both the Champions League and the Europa League.
Mertens, who is known for his versatility and hard work, also holds the record of scoring the most goals in European competitions for Napoli, with 26 strikes to his name. Besides, he has also chipped in with 11 assists, thus taking his direct goal contribution tally to 27 in just 33 appearances in Europe.
Since arriving as a left-sided winger from PSV Eindhoven back in 2013, Dries Mertens has truly modified himself as an out and out goalscorer and established himself amongst one of the most potent forwards across Europe.
The Belgian is the flag-bearer of Napoli’s attack
In his seven-year spell at Napoli until now, the Belgian international has become synonymous with the club. The diminutive, fast and agile forward has been the mainstay of Napoli’s attack for quite some time now, leading the frontline with Lorenzo Insigne and Jose Callejon.
Despite being linked with several other European heavyweights in the past, Mertens’ unwavering determination of taking Napoli to the next level is a perfect example of his love for the club, unlike many others such as Edinson Cavani and Gonzalo Higuaín, who left the Italian side in search of silverware.
The 33-year-old also holds a unique record of scoring at least 10 goals every season he has spent at the club. However, Mertens’ best performance in Napoli colours came under Maurizio Sarri’s management back in the 2016-17 season, where he scored a total of 28 goals in 35 Serie A appearances.
Mertens’ ability to score and create goals has been a key factor in Napoli’s recent upsurge in the Serie A charts. Beyond that, the way he has carried the club’s attack since Gonzalo Higuain’s departure is truly remarkable.
From occupying the left-winger’s role to playing in a false nine position, Dries Mertens has done everything that he has been asked to do for his beloved Napoli. He is arguably the most important player in the club’s set-up.
The unofficial leader of Napoli
Since Marek Hamsik’s departure to Chinese side Dalian Yifang in February 2019, Lorenzo Insigne was named the official captain of Napoli. But Mertens can often be seen barking out orders to his team-mates on the field.
Mertens’ hold on the team can be witnessed in the way he communicates with others, especially when Napoli come under the cosh. The way he carries himself both on and off the field is also a sign of a true leader. Above all, Dries Mertens’ ability to change the outcome of any game makes him a natural leader at Napoli.
To round it off, Dries Mertens’ love for Napoli is true and it won’t come as a surprise if he decides to retire from the Italian club.