Newcastle United and Leeds United consider move for Belgian star lauded by Diego Maradona

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The talented forward broke a club record held by a player said by many to be the greatest of all time.

Newcastle United and Leeds United are reportedly considering a move for former Napoli star Dries Mertens.

The 35-year-old forward is currently a free agent after leaving the Serie A giants at the end of last season and has also attracted interest from French club Marseille in recent weeks.

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Mertans brought an end to his nine-year stay in Naples but left an indelible mark on the club by becoming their all-time leading goalscorer with 148 goals in 397 appearances.

The versatile forward scored twice in a Champions League group stage game against RB Salzburg in October 2019 to surpass a record held by Argentina legend Diego Maradona.

After watching Mertens take his record, Maradona told Corriere dello Sport: “For me, it wasn't a disappointment. 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.

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“I'd like to do something so that Mertens doesn't leave. If it's right 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.”

Journalist Fabrizio Romano claimed Mertens turned down an offer to extend his time with Napoli but there are conflicting reports in Italian outlet Il Mattino suggesting he is ‘open’ to signing a new deal.

The report goes on to state Mertens would prefer to remain in Italy but also indicates Newcastle and Leeds have ‘begun to probe the situation’ and could make a move in the near future.

Mertens was first linked with a move to Newcastle during Rafa Benitez’s time in charge at St James Park and there were suggestions of an enquiry by the club’s new owners following a PIF-led consortium’s takeover last October.

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