Any strong army needs an able executioner. Dries Mertens is that silent performer in the ‘Golden Generation of Belgian football’ who slickly executes the role of winger and is highly rated for his pace and finishing.
He currently plays for Napoli SSC and Belgian national team mostly as a winger. However, he has put in appreciable performances in the central striker role as well.
Mertens was born on 6 May 1987 in Leuven, Belgium. He started his footballing journey at a local club Stade Leuven. The youth academy of KAA Gent provided him a perfect platform to hone his footballing abilities. He moved to Netherlands to play for third division side Eendracht Aalst and AGOVV where his brilliant skills drew the interest of bigger clubs.
Mertens had played for Belgian Under 17 prior to his senior team debut. It came in September 2011 against Finland where he was brought on as a substitute in the second half. The match ended in a 1-1 stalemate.
Rise to glory
Mertens has always been a consistent performer for club and country alike. He has a knack for scoring important goals which makes him an indispensable member of Napoli and Belgium. In a star studded Belgium line up, Mertens is a regular starter above the likes of talented wingers like Yannick Carrasco And Kevin Mirallas. His fantastic spell at PSV earned him a move to Napoli where he has thrived ever since.
He had an eventful World Cup where he bagged a last gasp winner against Algeria in the group stages, He featured in all the matches for Belgium till they were eliminated in the quarters by Argentina.
Mertens has come leaps and bounds in term of style of play. Along with guile and creativity, Mertens has also become a lethal goalscorer. He narrowly missed out on being the top scorer in 2016/17 Serie A season with Edin Dzeko edging out his tally of 28 by a solitary goal.
He was at his prolific best in the 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign where he netted 5 goals.
After spending his youth career in lower league Belgian clubs, his first senior contract was a loan spell from Gent to a Dutch third division side Eendracht Aalst.
After that, he spent a lengthy spell at AGOVV where dominating the opposition became a norm. He was rewarded for his outstanding performance by winning the Eerste Divisie best player award in 2008.
While his spell at Utrecht was eventful; at PSV, Mertens transformed into a goalscoring machine. He raked up 37 league goals in 62 appearances.
Italian giants Napoli came calling. In his early years, he got deeper roles but ever since he has been promoted to the offense, he has transformed into a perpetual goalscoring threat. His goal tally of 55 goals and counting for the past two years speaks volumes about the wizardry of the diminutive Belgian. He was a part of ‘Serie A Team of the Season 2016/17’.