Dries Mertens Profile
|Born||May 06, 1987|
After shining in the Netherlands during his youth, Mertens moved to Napoli where he has become a legendary figure of the club over an eight-year spell.
Dries Mertens is a Belgian professional soccer player who plays as either a striker or a winger for Italian Serie A club Napoli and the Belgian national team.
Mertens was on the books of Stade Leuvens and Anderlecht as a youth player before moving on to Gent, where he made his professional breakthrough.
Mertens then went on to play for Eendracht Aalst and AGOVV on loan before signing permanently for the latter. He later represented Utrecht before spells at PSV Eindhoven and Napoli brought him to prominence.
Emerging at Utrecht
Mertens first began to turn heads in his debut season at Utrecht in 2009/10. He scored seven goals in 39 appearances in all competitions and was runner-up to Ajax's Luis Suarez for the Dutch Footballer of the Year award.
Unsurprisingly, Mertens was handed the Di Tommaso Trophy for Utrecht's Player of the Season.
In his second season at Utrecht, Mertens fared even better, picking up 14 goals and 24 assists in 47 appearances across all competitions, including the UEFA Europa League. He left for PSV Eindhoven in June 2011, having scored 21 goals in 86 appearances for Utrecht.
Dutch dynamite at Eindhoven
Mertens signed for PSV Eindhoven in a dual transfer with Kevin Strootman, replacing the departing Balazs Dzsudzsak. The pair joined for a combined reported fee of €13million.
Mertens hit the ground running at his new club, scoring on his debut, though his sweet beginnings quickly turned sour as his side lost 3-1 to AZ Alkmaar.
On August 28, Mertens scored his first hat-trick for PSV in a 6-1 thrashing of Excelsior. Less than a month later, he scored four goals against Roda JC, cementing his status as one of the brightest prospects in the Eredivisie.
Mertens went on to score 21 goals in 33 appearances in his debut Eredivisie season - the fourth-highest goal tally in the league. In all competitions, Mertens scored 27 goals in 49 appearances in the 2011/12 season.
PSV won the 2011/12 KNVB Cup, beating Heracles Almelo in the final, and then beat Ajax 4-2 in the 2012 Johan Cruyff Shield.
Mertens scored 18 goals in 39 appearances across all competitions in his second season at PSV, his last with the club.
Moving to Naples
Mertens became Rafael Benitez's first signing as Napoli boss on June 16, 2013. The deal was reported to be worth €9.5million.
"Rafael Benitez wanted me really badly and that gives me a lot of confidence. And when people doubt me and say Serie A is different from the Eredivisie because I won't play against any Dutch defenders, that is when I'll be at my best," Mertens told De Telegraaf.
Meanwhile, Napoli president Aurelio de Laurentiis wrote on Twitter: "I am happy to tell you that a few minutes ago I closed the deal with PSV for Dries Mertens.
"In the last few days Dries has been in Naples. He told me that he fell in love with our city, with its greatness. Welcome Dries!"
Mertens scored 13 goals in 47 appearances in all competitions in his first season at Napoli as the club won the 2013/14 Coppa Italia and 2014 Supercoppa Italiana.
Mertens scored 10 goals in 51 appearances in all competitions in his second season at Napoli, picking up 11 assists.
He netted a further 11 goals in all competitions in 40 appearances throughout the course of the 2015/16 campaign.
Following the departure of Argentine striker Gonzalo Higuain to Italian rivals Juventus, Napoli boss Maurizio Sarri relied heavily upon Mertens for goals in the 2016/17 season. Mertens rose to the challenge, scoring 34 goals in 46 appearances in all competitions.
Mertens was prolific once again in 2017/18, scoring 22 goals in 49 appearances. Once again, however, Napoli were narrowly beaten to the Serie A title by Juventus. Sarri subsequently left to replace Antonio Conte as the head coach of Chelsea.
Meanwhile, Mertens remained at Napoli, scoring 19 goals in 47 appearances in all competitions during the 2018/19 season. That was followed by 16 goals in 42 appearances in 2019/20, complemented by another Coppa Italia.
In 2020/21, Mertens scored 10 goals in 38 appearances as Napoli finished fifth in Serie A, narrowly missing out on Champions League qualification.
Representing the Red Devils
Mertens played for Belgium at under-17 level and made his first senior appearance in 2011. He was part of the side at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, then again at Euro 2016 in France and the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
Mertens gained negative publicity ahead of Euro 2012 after a push on England's Gary Cahill in a pre-tournament warm-up game resulted in the Chelsea defender being ruled out of the tournament.
Reflecting on the incident, Cahill said, as quoted by The Mirror: "I was in a restaurant and he took time out to come over and apologise. I respected him a hell of a lot for doing that. I didn't even know he was in there but he came over and apologised for something that happened years ago.
"It had huge consequences at the time because I felt like I was in condition to start at that tournament. The age I was at, the form I was in, I felt I would have played so it was a huge blow for me.
"It took a little time to get over it but I don't think he did it Âdeliberately. How many times are you playing and you kind of shove, or you're frustrated and don't get the ball and shove someone out the way?
"I think it was one of those things, a freak situation. I hit Joe (Hart), probably one of the worst people to hit in the whole team because his shoulders are massive. That was that. He didn't think, 'I'm going to push him and break his jaw.'
"I held no grudges against him - I was just really disappointed that I was missing that tournament.
"For him to take time out years later to apologise is something I really respect. We shook hands. I said, 'Look, 'it's finished with'. I don't know him from Adam but he's obviously a decent fella."
Mertens was born in Belgium to soccer-loving parents, Marijke and Herman, who he notes as inspiration behind his career. Mertens is reportedly married to Kat Kerkhofs.
Salary Sport reports that Mertens has earned a total of £33,592,000 over the course of his career, although his precise net worth is unknown.