Dries Mertens has reflected on his first season with Napoli and the advantage he sees them holding heading into next year.
The Belgium international impressed during a debut campaign in Serie A at the San Paolo, netting 11 times in Serie A as his side finished third in the table.
For the 27-year-old arrival from PSV, everything about the move proved a pleasant surprise.
“I confess, I did not know it would be so beautiful and so great,” Mertens has explained to FourFourTwo.
“When I was in Belgium and knew I would be moving to Napoli, everyone told me it would be a bad experience, I would find a dirty city, poorly organised, with rundown architecture and people at the very least strange.
“It is not so and I want to say it publicly. Here, everything is beautiful, it is one of the best places to think about vacation. First, none of my family imagined coming here with me, now my home has become a hotel.
“I swear, now there are many here. And then it becomes difficult to make them go away… My whole family has been here, my brother as many as five times, more recently 14 friends of my fiancée, all together.
“I have been forced to leave my home, I went to sleep at Gonzalo Higuain’s - he is a very generous friend.”
On the field, Mertens admitted to having similar initial doubts over the move out to Italy.
“It was a big test to come and play in a tough League. I confess I had some trepidation, knowing that I ran the risk of not playing enough.
“At PSV I was always a starter, while here I would not have a place secured. I was afraid of losing my national team spot, to not go to the World Cup.
“Instead, just the opposite has happened, and this season just passed has been one of professional maturity, I have enriched my knowledge of an evolved and difficult football.
“Much of this I owe to Napoli and Rafa Benitez, for their continued expressions of esteem.
“My future? We’ll see. For the moment I am happy here, whilst I have a contract for five seasons. This year I did well, but I know I can still improve, always here with Napoli.
“I am not thinking about changing team.”
The winger reflected on what is to come for the team, and the ambitions of fighting for a League title.
“All the fans ask me for two things - to win the League and to beat Juventus with one of my goals. I have satisfied the second request, we hope to be able to satisfy the first. But we need time, work, an even stronger team.
“We cannot do everything in one year, especially in a year characterised by a change of 10 players in all departments, as well as playing completely differently - it takes time.
“It has been a good year with the Coppa Italia, and then on our path we have found important teams, like Roma. The challenge with the Giallorossi was wonderful, exciting.
“Of course, ending the season in third only looks like a detail, but it is an important goal, given the form of the two teams ahead of us.
“No, I do not have regrets, I know we gave our fans enormous satisfaction. We tried to keep them coming with a good game and we are really proud of what we did and how we did it.
“It is not by chance that ahead of us have placed only those teams who have set all sorts of records in their footballing history.
“And next? The big advantage is that we do not start from scratch. Now we are all familiar with each other, we have achieved a harmony both personally and professionally, we know everything that our Coach asks of us.”
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