Borussia Dortmund have not won the Bundesliga since they won it under Jurgen Klopp. Times since then have been indifferent and the change in managers have been playing a role too. But under Lucien Favre, the process is underway and while it isn’t perfect yet, the modifications are ongoing.
The latest modification could well be a move for Napoli star Dries Mertens. Reports from Gianluca di Marzio have said that BVB are looking at the possibility to sign the Belgian. Mertens is yet to extend his contract at Napoli, with discussions about him ongoing.
The report does say that Mertens is willing to stay at the club. But he wants a bonus in the contract offer that Napoli have given him.
That would give Dortmund immense hope. Given that Mertens’ current deal expires in the summer of 2020, they would be hoping that something comes up. And he could be a very useful signing indeed.
Mertens is currently the second-highest scorer in partenopei history. He broke Diego Maradona’s goalscoring record in a Champions League game against RB Salzburg, meaning he is only behind former teammate Marek Hamsik.
At 32, he has been one of the club’s most important players over the years. Since arriving from PSV Eindhoven for a fee of €9.5 million, he has become an icon. He represents exactly the sort of business Napoli are experts in doing. They did the same with Hamsik too.
This season has been a rather tumultuous one for Napoli. Carlo Ancelotti was sacked, with the players revolting against Aurelio de Laurentiis’ decision to impose a ritiro. Despite all that, Mertens’ performances haven’t taken a hit.
In 15 Serie A games, he has a tally of four goals and two assists. In the Champions League, he has played six games and has five goals and one assist to his name. While he is a striker in the modern-day, he used to be a left-winger during his early years at the Stadio San Paolo.
It was Maurizio Sarri who saw a striker in him around the 2016-17 season. Since then, his goalscoring numbers hit another level. Before the season, Mertens’ had never had a hand in more than 15 goals in a single season. That season, he scored 28 goals and had eight assists.
While those numbers have been reducing since then, they have always been over 15. Playing as a striker has brought the best out of him. And it still is doing the same.
Recently, Belgium boss Roberto Martinez had huge praise for his ability in the number nine position.
He told reporters (via Sportsmole): “Dries has proved he can play in several different positions, he can make the most of spaces and is an intelligent player. In this new role as a striker, he represents an extra option for us, having become a real master of the number nine position.”
At this age, a club like Borussia Dortmund suits him on many levels. He has always been playing in systems that have the promise of attacking football. Be it Sarri’s Napoli or the Belgian national team. He isn’t a player who is at his peak and would take away Paco Alcacer’s position either.
In Paco’s absence, Dortmund got to score only five goals in four games. When he’s been missing in the Champions League, they have scored only thrice in just as many games. It shows how he is one of Europe’s most undervalued strikers today.
But having someone like Mertens would take burden off Paco. The 32-year-old is someone who can play a similar role to what Teemu Pukki or Jamie Vardy do. He is a very willing runner in-behind defences. He likes to stay on the shoulder of the last man and latch onto passes to score.
He has developed this poacher’s instinct over the years. He is good on the ball and very good off it too.
The players Dortmund have around the striker can leave anyone to lick their lips. They have two highly productive wingers in Jadon Sancho and Thorgan Hazard. They have an attacking midfielder in Marco Reus. Then there are other creative players like Achraf Hakimi and Julian Brandt.
In total, these five play as many as 10.9 key passes per game. That is a spectacular number for any striker. And Mertens would have to latch onto passes and score goals. He would make runs in-behind and be at the end of juicy crosses. That’s very suited to where he currently is in his career.
And he won’t ask for too much regular football too. He can play out wide and has the experience of graft. He has a very sound workrate on his day too. He would get a good amount of football at a top club that plays in the Champions League regularly. It suits him on many levels.