Dries Mertens doesn’t get anywhere near the attention he deserves.
Maybe it’s because he’s now 30-years-old, or that Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku are filling the quota of superstar Belgians, but very few players across Europe can claim to have had a better 2017 than Napoli’s little genius.
Take a look at his goal against Lazio last night for an example of what he’s been up to this year…
Running back towards his own goal, hitting it first time back on himself, from that angle… it’s a thing of beauty.
That goal pretty much sums up the last year for Mertens.
He’s always been full of running but since the start of last season his finishing has just got better and better.
Since he moved inside off the wing and became a centre-forward for Napoli, he’s scored 41 goals in 53 games.
That puts him above the likes of Luis Suarez, Harry Kane, Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero and international team-mate Romelu Lukaku.
Mertens admits that he has benefitted from Maurizio Sarri’s philosophy that has Napoli playing arguably the most attractive football in Europe right now.
Sarri recently told Football Italia: “He just keeps getting better and is becoming truly world class.
“It’s honestly a pity that we only discovered Mertens as a striker at the age of 28, because he could’ve been at the top level in the world for years and years.”
Lorenzo Insigne, Marek Hamsik and Jose Callejon make up the rest of a potent attacking unit — and that’s not even including Arkadiusz Milik, the man signed to replace Higuain in 2016.
In Italy, Mertens and co are the subject of much praise but they are undervalued and underappreciated across the rest of the continent.
Mertens was linked with West Ham during the last transfer window.
Not disrespect to the Hammers, but he would walk into teams much better than the East End club.
This relatively low profile suits Napoli down to the ground.
Sarri’s troops have won all their first five league games and have outscored Juventus (who also have a 100% record) to take them to the top of the table.
The Napoli club have only ever won two Scudettos, thanks mostly to the brilliance of Diego Maradona.
But with Mertens in top gear and Sarri at the helm there’s no reason they can’t go all the way this season.
It’ll be nice to see a club other than Juve lift the trophy for a change.