Mertens future hint involves free agency and China

Dries Mertens Udinese Napoli Serie A
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The Napoli striker has suggested that he could head to Asia in the summer of 2020 when his current contract in Italy comes to a close

Dries Mertens has hinted that he will leave Napoli as a free agent in 2020, with it possible that he could head to China.

The Belgium international is currently tied to terms which include a €28 million (£24m/$32m) buyout clause for sides in the Chinese Super League.

He is not expecting to see that asking price triggered, with there a desire on his part to continue turning out in Serie A for now.

Mertens is, however, prepared to acknowledge, at 31 years of age, that he may have an adventure outside of Europe left in him, with fellow countrymen Axel Witsel and Yannick Carrasco having already taken in spells in Asia.

Quizzed on a possible switch to the CSL by the South China Morning Post, a man who is two efforts short of 100 goals for Napoli said: “You never know.

“In one year I finish my contract in Naples so maybe then.

“Why did I reject a move before? I just preferred to stay in Europe for my development. I was still on the bench at the beginning in Naples, then I started to play and I wanted to enjoy my moments.

“I worked so hard to get into the team and I didn’t want to leave – that would have been too easy.

“I spoke a lot with [Axel] Witsel and [Yannick] Carrasco and they are actually quite positive about the football there.

“I spoke to Carrasco [recently] and he said he’s getting used to it and his team is getting more points.

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“At the beginning he said he didn’t know how to find his place in the team, but now he’s feeling better. With Axel, even though he’s moved away, he said he still enjoyed his time.”

Mertens has been with Napoli since 2013, taking in 246 appearances to date.

He has been a regular source of goals throughout a career which has also seen him earn 78 caps for his country and would see that skill set embraced by ambitious outfits in the Chinese top flight were he to become available.