Conflicting reports have emerged over potential interest from Milan in Napoli forward Dries Mertens this summer, as he prepares to become a free agent.
Calciomercato, via Todofichajes, initially suggested that a deal could be announced as early as next week, but then CM reporter Daniele Longo noted that a swoop was not on the verge of happening, as per his tweet.
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In the see-saw nature of this particular rumour, La Stampa then reported on Tuesday that although there is no signature as of yet, negotiations are underway between Milan and Mertens over a potential deal to see him join the club this summer on a free transfer.
Assuming that a deal is done for the 32-year-old, would it be smart business from the Rossoneri?
Mertens swoop could make sense
The issue that immediately stands out is his age. The Belgian international turns 33 in May, and given how much we’ve heard about the modus operandi of owners Elliott and CEO Ivan Gazidis looking to identify and sign young talent with great potential both in terms of ability on the pitch and their value moving forward, Mertens doesn’t exactly fit the bill.
Nevertheless, there are arguably two key factors which stand in support of such a move. Firstly, he could be available on a free transfer this summer if he doesn’t renew with Napoli, and we need experience in the dressing room.
Lucas Biglia and Giacomo Bonaventura are set to leave this summer as things stand with their respective contracts expiring, and decisions need to be made on loan pair Asmir Begovic and Simon Kjaer with their deals coming to an end.
Further, as per the club’s official site, they have an option to extend Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s agreement for another season, and so if the majority of that quintet were to leave, that could create a real imbalance in the squad again as we’re back to heavily relying on a relatively young group.
When it comes to Mertens himself, we’re talking about a player who has scored 121 goals and provided 73 assists in 311 games for Napoli, establishing himself as the club’s joint all-time top goalscorer, while he has 12 goals and six assists in 29 outings this season to suggest that he’s still making an impact now and has plenty left in the tank.
Coupled with his versatility to play in various positions in the final third, and the fact that we’d be weakening a direct rival by taking their talisman, there are arguably various factors in this particular transfer rumour which make sense from our perspective.
Time will tell if this is a genuine pursuit for Milan, but there is enough to suggest that it would be a decent move to address an area of the squad where there is a real lack of quality depth and competition.
Even if Ibrahimovic were to stay, that still leaves him and Rafael Leao as our options to lead the line, while Mertens’ speed, movement and positional intelligence could see him link up well with the likes of Leao and Ante Rebic if he were fielded up front.
Milan need to find a balance in the transfer market between taking gambles on young players with potentially big futures and proven stars who can provide a more immediate impact if we’re to make both short term and long term progress. Mertens could be an ideal addition to help with that, but it remains to be seen if Milan push to land his signature this summer.