Napoli cannot let Dries Mertens leave – Diego Maradona

Dries Mertens surpassed Diego Maradona on Napoli’s all-time leading scorers list this week and he has been praised by the Argentine great.

Diego Maradona congratulated Dries Mertens for overtaking him on Napoli’s list of all-time leading scorers and urged his former club to do all they can to keep hold of the Belgium forward.

Mertens scored twice in Wednesday’s 3-2 Champions League win over Salzburg to move onto 116 goals for the Serie A club, one more than Argentine great Maradona.

The 32-year-old is now second only to Marek Hamsik (121) among Napoli’s leading scorers, but is out of contract at the end of the season and recently talked up a lucrative move to China.

However, Maradona warned Mertens to think twice before leaving the Italian club, where he has spent the past seven seasons.

“For me, it wasn’t a disappointment that he surpassed my tally,” Maradona told Corriere dello Sport. “In fact, I applauded Mertens. When he scored, I thought about Napoli and certainly not myself.

“Mertens was born to be a striker, but he didn’t know. All his goals couldn’t be scored by someone who isn’t a striker at heart.

“I’d like to do something so that Mertens doesn’t leave.

“It’s right and sacrosanct for a professional to always look for a better salary, but it’s also true that in no other corner of the world would he feel loved, respected, pampered and important like he does in Naples.

“Therefore, dear president, don’t let him get away. He’s over 30 years old, I know, but he runs, plays and scores goals with the freshness and enthusiasm of a young lad.”

Maradona is now in charge of Argentine club Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata and would gladly welcome Mertens if the former PSV attacker is after a new challenge.

“If he really should leave, Mertens should know that in La Plata, there will always be a place for him at my Gimnasia,” he said.

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