Dries Mertens has been a big part of Napoli for the last two years. After joining from PSV in 2013, he's been a regular in the side, both starting and off the bench, and he had a significant impact on the club since his arrival.
He's scored 23 goals in all competitions since joining the club, a total made all the more impressive considering that Mertens has frequently been used as a substitute, accounting for nearly a third of his 111 all-competitions appearances, with 39 of them coming off the bench. Mertens may have scored his last Napoli goal, though, with the changes running through the side this summer potentially putting his place in the side on shaky ground.
With a completely new tactical setup likely being implemented, there may not be a place for Mertens to start on anything like a regular basis. Even if Maurizio Sarri continues with the 4-3-1-2 that he found success with at Empoli, the lack of wingers in and of itself doesn't leave Mertens zero place to play -- his skillset means he could play as the "1" behind the two strikers, but that's a role that's first and foremost Marek Hamsik's, meaning Mertens would again become a supersub.
That's not a position he's seemed entirely satisfied with in the past, and by the thoughts shared by his agent recently would seem to indicate that he's seriously considering what his future holds now.
It's been a difficult year for Napoli. They got very close to winning the Europa League, but we all know what happened in the league. [ed. note -- Yeaaaaaaaah. Let's not revisit that.] We'll see what happens now. There are clubs interested in Dries, but at the moment I can't say anything.
There have been a lot of changes at Napoli, first there was a change of coach, and [Maurizio] Micheli left too, and he was our reference point. Dries is on holiday at the moment. [...] By next week we might know something. [Dries] knows what he wants. We're looking at the situation, and we'll make a decision.
I don't know if the problem is Napoli or Mertens, we'll have a meeting soon to decide the lad's future.
-Source: Football Italia
Those aren't terribly encouraging words. That sounds rather like Mertens is leaning towards the exit door unless his meeting with Sarri goes exceptionally well. Given that he's 28, wants to win some titles, and wants to play a big role in those titles -- well, that meeting might have to go exceptionally well at this point.
It's no secret that Mertens loves Naples, and loves Napoli. He's talked about it over and over, including about his plans to make the city his home once his career is done. But for now, his career is still going, and despite that love, he may feel he needs to move for the good of that career.
Hopefully the two parties can find some solution that works for everyone. Napoli are better with Mertens than without him, but it's understandable if he wants to move on. If he does, hopefully it works out well for him, and he returns home to his adopted city to be welcomed back with open arms.