Football News

Napoli forward Mertens backs Sarri after Juventus switch

By CJ Smith

Published: 18:29, 17 July 2019

Napoli winger Dries Mertens has played down controversy surrounding Maurizio Sarri’s move to Juventus, saying he’ll “always love” his former manager.

Sarri left Napoli last summer to join Chelsea but after just one season – in which he won the Europa League – has returned to Italy, replacing Max Allegri at Juventus.

Mertens under Sarri: Five key things to know…

  • Mertens arrived at Napoli from PSV in 2013.
  • Sarri followed two years later after Mertens had scored 17 goals in 64 Serie A games.
  • The Belgian was converted into a striker under Sarri and scored 51 goals in 106 games.
  • After a year at Chelsea, Sarri has now taken over at Juventus.
  • Mertens has credited the Italian for giving him “everything” in football.

The move to the Serie A champions has been met with discontent among some sections of the Napoli support but Mertens has moved to calm the mood, praising a manager he claims gave him “everything”.

“He coached me for three years, he showed me football in a different way and I loved it,” the Belgian said.

“I don’t think Cristiano Ronaldo has much to learn, but Juve will have fun with him. However, I’ll always love Sarri. He’s someone who gave me everything,

“It’s strange to see him at Juve, but I have no problems with him.”

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Mertens is on the trail of Napoli’s goalscoring record next season – sitting just six behind the legendary Diego Maradona and 12 behind Marek Hamsik – and the 32-year-old certainly counts the landmark among his objectives for 2019/20.

“I hope so, it would be a good thing. Certainly it’s an objective of mine,” he replied when asked if he aims to become the club’s all-time top goalscorer.

“With Sarri I was a centre-forward, but last season I played in a different role, behind the strikers.

“It wouldn’t hurt if another striker came in. Milik played lots of games last season.”