Chelsea cannot be discounted from a free-transfer swoop to sign Napoli forward Dries Mertens after a trusted source revealed Frank Lampard had held a series of talks over a deal for the Belgian.
The 32-year-old frontman has been in Chelsea’s crosshairs for some time and they were believed to be close to a £5million deal during the winter transfer window although nothing materialised.
Mertens, who has Rafa Benitez’s first signing as Napoli coach back in 2013, opted to stay in Naples until the end of the season, but with his deal due to expire on June 30, the Belgian is not short of transfer options.
And while Napoli still hope to persuade the player to commit to a new deal, the likes of Inter Milan are also extremely keen to bring the player to the San Siro.
However, Chelsea remain hopeful they could still could attract Mertens to ditch Serie A and opt for a new adventure in London with them and trusted Italian transfer expert Gianluca Di Marzio says there is every chance he could end up at Stamford Bridge after talks with boss Frank Lampard.
As per the report, Lampard has spoken directly to Mertens himself to outline his Chelsea vision to him and in an effort to persuade the player to move to the Premier League.
It’s believed much of Chelsea’s interest in Mertens depends on Olivier Giroud who, despite claims the Blues have offered a new one-year deal to, could still opt for a move to Italy himself with both Inter and Lazio credited with an interest.
Giroud has made just 13 appearances under Lampard this season but last month he indicated that a chnage in his situation could lead to him extending his stay after all.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Of course,” the striker said when questioned about his future.
“There are a few months to go, games to win and maybe another trophy, and after, you know, I think I have two, three nice seasons in front of me.
“It’s not the time to talk about contracts and everything but I will take a decision when it comes.”
Reports of Lampard’s talks with Mertens comes after his agent Vincenzo Morabito confirmed Chelsea’s interest and explained how Giroud’s on-off movein January caused complications.
“Mertens? I believe he will not renew,” Morabito was quoted as saying on CalcioNapoli24.
“Chelsea really like him. He could have also gone there in January, but the fact that he didn’t go blocked our negotiation for Giroud’s exit, ” added Morabito, who was trying to sort the Frenchman out with a move to Italy.
“As far as I know Chelsea are continuing to deal with Mertens’ lawyers and it is no coincidence the Belgian has not yet renewed [his contract at Napoli].”
The scenario of Giroud out, Mertens in remains a possibility although, with Lampard having limited options up front, it’s not out of the question that both World Cup stars could be at Stamford Bridge next season if the ex-Arsenal striker decides to extend his stay.
Napoli are currently sixth in Serie A but a massive 24 points behind leaders Juventus and they face a major uphill task to try and secure Champions League football again next season.
Previous reports in Italy suggested that Mertens has been offered a two-year extension to remain in Naples, but is holding off amid uncertainty about the team’s ability to challenge for major honours in the future.
The forward, who can operate as a striker or winger, has scored 90 goals in 226 league appearances for Napoli and also won 90 caps for Belgium, netting 18 times.