Dries Mertens has become one of the names most often featured in the Chelsea rumor mill, ever since we tried to sign him in January to replace Olivier Giroud, who was set to go to Inter. While both of those deals fell through (and Giroud may or may not be staying beyond this season), Chelsea continue to be linked with the 32-year-old Napoli striker, with earlier reports claiming that Frank Lampard has even “contacted” the player and not just ask about the local pizza.
However — and if you’re new to the rumor mill, this may be surprising — those reports were swiftly blown way out of proportion, with an Italian transfer intermediary (of whom there are way too many making themselves heard in the Italian media on a regular basis) claiming that Frank Lampard has been calling the Belgian almost every day.
“Mertens had originally said he wanted to stay at Napoli, but then his lawyer started offering him to various international clubs, meaning something changed between the player and the Azzurri. I know this because I was working on the Olivier Giroud issue when he was meant to leave Chelsea in January, with a lucrative contract lined up for Mertens.
“Chelsea have now extended Giroud’s contract as a precaution, but they are very interested in Mertens and Lampard is calling him almost every day. I can see Mertens going to Chelsea.”
-Vincenzo Morabito; source: Radio Kiss Kiss Napoli (via Football Italia)
While we’re pretty sure that Lampard has better things to do than chat with a player from another club on a daily basis, we all get bored in quarantine sometimes. Plus, hyperboles are a way of life in 2020, especially with anything Internet-related.
That said, despite the exaggerated takes, Chelsea’s interest in the attacker is apparently true, with Goal claiming that Mertens is keeping his options open, since he knows that free agents are going to become hot commodity in the next few months. Given the interest from the Blues and Inter Milan, he’s likely to hold off on signing an extension with Napoli. Mertens is currently the joint-highest goal-scorer in Napoli history, and while he would like to become the solitary holder of the record, that alone probably will not be enough motivation to make him stay if he receives promises of greener pastures.
Dries Mertens keeping his options open with the free transfers becoming more attractive in the economic landscape after Covid-19. Chelsea among those interested but Frank Lampard not calling him every day: https://t.co/oJaAT5Kr8Z #CFC— Nizaar Kinsella (@NizaarKinsella) April 29, 2020
While Chelsea only give 1-year contracts to players over 30, David Luiz’s exception may be a precedent for us maybe relaxing the rules a bit. Mertens’ demands of €7.5million (£6.3m) per year for two seasons, plus another €1m (£845,000) in performance-related bonuses shouldn’t be much of an issue. Not every club can satisfy Mertens’ wage demands and according to Fabrizio Romano (for Calciomercato), AS Roma have in fact already pulled out of the race.
As versatile as Mertens may be however, he seems very much surplus to requirements at Chelsea these days, especially on a longer-term contract. As a backup, he’d be fine, but would he be willing to settle for such a role? Unlikely.
Oh, and Lampard isn’t calling every day.
Frank Lampard isn’t calling Dries Mertens every day, though he is still very interested.— Kristof Terreur (@HLNinEngeland) April 29, 2020
One of the dilemmas atm: Mertens still isn’t Napoli’s sole club topscorer - joint with Hamsik.
Lampard likes him a lot, also because he can cover a few positions. #cfc pic.twitter.com/QfYX5qR9ni