This Napoli side has a lot of lovable players in it, but few have become as massively adorable and amazing and worthy of the fans' passion over the last year as Dries Mertens. The Belgian winger was initially greeted with skepticism by the partenopei faithful, his his desire, drive, and talent quickly won them over, and now Mertens is widely considered a fan favorite.
After returning to Naples following a successful stint with Belgium at the World Cup, he's given an interview with Four Four Two as he prepares to return to training, and... well, if you had any lingering doubts as to whether or not you should adore Mertens like we do, you won't after reading this.
It starts out with a lot of the usual fluff: he was excited to join such a big and famous side last summer, he likes working with Rafa, he loves the support of Napoli's fans. Then things turn more interesting, and you start to see how deeply ingrained Naples has already become for Mertens.
"I confess, I did not know it was so beautiful and so great. When I was in Belgium and knew I was moving to Naples, everyone told me it would be a bad experience, that I would find a dirty, poorly organized city with crumbling architecture and strange people. That's not so and I want to say it publicly. Here everything is beautiful, one of the best places to think about having a vacation. Before the move, none of my family could imagine me coming here on my own, but now my home has become a hotel. I swear, so many friends and family visit, I'm never all by myself. And then it becomes difficult to make them go away ..."
"I live by the sea, I wake up in the morning, I open the window and I can exclaim "fantastic". I really enjoy being here. "
-Transcribed quotes provided by Tuttonapoli
He goes on at length about how much both he and his girlfriend love the city and the region and everything about it. It really feels like he's fallen head-over-heels in love with Naples, not at all like a certain spiky-haired Slovakian once did. Marek Hamsik may have been born elsewhere, but now he's so tightly wound in to Neapolitan culture that he's often seen playing street football with kids, talking to random groups of fans, and just generally being part of the city. It's hard to imagine Hamsik being anywhere else now, and it seems we're heading in that direction with Mertens, too.
The diminutive Belgian indicated in his interview that he'd seriously consider staying in Naples once his playing days are done, even joking that he should open a bed and breakfast just to give his houseguests somewhere else to stay. But then he dropped one heck of an awesome bomb after saying that in addition to winning a Scudetto with Napoli, he wants one other thing:
'I confess, my girlfriend and I have another desire: to adopt a child from Naples. Often we go to help sick children in the hospital, hoping that one day not so far away, we can give support even more special to a particular child, to bring one into our family."
That's... wow. I'm not ashamed that I got a little misty-eyed when I read that. That's not something one even says they're thinking about lightly. If you had any doubts left about Mertens' commitment to this city, that should have gone a long ways to silencing them.
Dries Mertens: fantastic footballer, better human being. He deserves all the love he gets from the fans and then some.