Former Napoli sporting director confirms Manchester United’s interest in Dries Mertens

by Leo Nieboer

Former Napoli sporting director Pierpaolo Marino has confirmed that Manchester United are following striker Dries Mertens “very closely” ahead of a potential bid.

The Belgian forward has been Napoli’s central attacking force over the last year, netting 43 goals since Gonzalo Higuain’s big money move to Juventus in August 2016.

Man United expressed interest in Mertens earlier this year but the 30-year-old signed a new contract with the Neapolitans instead, keeping him at the club until 2020.

And Marino, a well established figure at Napoli following two stints as sporting director, revealed that Jose Mourinho was keeping a close eye on the Belgian.

“The €28m clause is likely to be a low price even if he is 30,” he said. “It turns out that United are following him very closely.”

You must be thinking that this release clause is a typo. €28m can hardly buy you a packet of hula hoops in today’s market but that really is all United – or any club outside Italy – need to pay for one of the brightest forwards in the game next summer.

Under Maurizio Sarri, Napoli are producing some of the best football in Europe. They are nothing short of scintillating going forward, placing emphasis on building in phases and working in triangles – an approach geared towards moving the ball precisely and rapidly up the pitch, with Mertens always on hand to add the finishing touch.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Napoli will be this season’s AS Monaco of the Champions League.

More importantly, however, Mourinho ought to seriously consider making a bid sooner rather than later for a player – despite being 30 – whose value has been criminally underestimated by the Napoli board.

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