NEWS
Saturday October 5 2019
Mertens: 'Football like a sickness...'

Dries Mertens said “football in Italy is like a wonderful sickness,” which means the Napoli star does occasionally get slapped by old ladies.

The Partenopei visit Torino on Sunday at 17.00 UK time (16.00 GMT), click here for a match preview.

“Football in Italy is like a wonderful sickness, because people are infected with this love for the sport from childhood to old age,” Mertens told the Lega Serie A channel.

“There’s a lady who lives above me, I think she’s 75 years old, and every morning she says to me: ‘You played well, good boy.’ Or if I played badly, she’ll give me a slap and say I could’ve done better. That doesn’t happen in Belgium!

“After seven years, I do feel Neapolitan now. I have many friends here, people have seen that I give my all on the field and off it I try to live like any other citizen of Naples. It’s a beautiful city, I speak the language, it’s all perfect.”

Mertens, or Ciro as he has been nicknamed by locals, has now scored 114 goals in a Napoli jersey, one off Diego Armando Maradona’s tally and approaching the all-time club record of 121 set by Marek Hamsik.

“I’d love to beat Hamsik’s record. Maybe I was wrong to give him so many assists in the last few years! If I do beat it, I’ll certainly call him up. Who would’ve said seven years ago that I could become the club record scorer? It’s wonderful.”

Napoli take on Torino this weekend and Mertens has fond memories against them, scoring four goals in a single game.

“It was a great moment, especially as a week earlier I’d scored a hat-trick against Cagliari. That lob was definitely on purpose, as those who thought it was meant to be a cross know nothing about football.

“The Scudetto race is more open this season, because Juventus are having a few difficulties and don’t win as easily as they did before. However, they’re still picking up points and so are Inter. We cannot afford to drop anything now.”

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