Napoli have stepped up their bid to secure Dries Mertens' services beyond the end of the season, with the player personally meeting with president Aurelio De Laurentiis over a contract extension.
Mertens has just months remaining on his deal in Naples, though he remains an exceptionally important player for Gennaro Gattuso. He scored his 12th of the season in the impressive 1-1 Champons League draw with Barcelona last week, a clinical finish that moved him to within level with Marek Hamsik's club record 122 goals.
He turns 33 in May, however, and reports as recently as last month suggested it is 'increasingly likely' he will leave, with Chelsea thought to be waiting in the wings after failing with a January approach.
Nonetheless, director Cristiano Giuntoli confirmed after the Barcelona draw, which sees the tie finely poised heading into the second leg at Camp Nou, that the club had opened talks over extending his stay.
“We are talking to Dries’ entourage, we hope for the best," Giuntoli said, as quoted by Football Italia. "He has given this club a great deal, so whatever decision he makes is fine.
“We’re talking to his people, this is his home. If he decides to stay, we’ll be very happy, and if he decides to leave, we’ll salute him.”
Though the club seem to concede there is a strong possibility he will leave, a report from Gianluca Di Marzio claims that talks over a deal have gone a step further than Giuntoli let on.
The renowned Italian journalist sources reports from Meridiano News, claiming the club and player are 'calmly proceeding' with talks, and that Mertens and De Laurentiis have already met in person to discuss his future.
Di Marzio notes that there remains an 'uncertainty' over whether or not the Belgian would like a fresh challenge, but that Napoli are 'pushing' to get him signed up on extended terms.
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