New rumours have emerged involving Napoli's Dries Mertens and his release clause of just €30 million―roughly £26 million―amid reports both Liverpool and Manchester United retain an interest in the forward.
According to Calciomercato.com's Lorenzo Bettoni, the two Premier League giants are shocked at "how low Mertens' release clause is." The report also states United tried to sign him in the summer, and the clause will not become active until the end of the 2017-18 campaign.
Mertens' clause has been a divisive issue since the moment he signed his last contract―as reported by ESPN FC, club president Aurelio De Laurentiis told Radio Kiss Kiss the clause is only valid for Chinese clubs:
“It protects the fans and me. Dries will stay with us for a few more years, unless of course he wants to go to China and next year someone pays the release clause that he wanted introduced and I cannot refuse.
"I was not in favour of the release clause after the Gonzalo Higuain mistake, but we learned from it, so there is a release clause on Dries' contract that is valid only for China.”
Calciomercato maintain it is valid for all foreign teams, however, explaining the interest of both Liverpool and United.
Mertens has one of the most unique stories in football today, as the 30-year-old rose to prominence as a tricky winger with solid athleticism who could be effective in the right system.
He was often overshadowed by his more famous compatriots who stole the headlines with the Belgian national team and didn't really stand out in his first two seasons at Napoli. Mertens was solid as a wide man but rarely more than that.
Manager Maurizio Sarri was forced to move the former PSV man to a central role due to an injury crisis at the club, however, and in doing so, unlocked his full scoring potential. As a central forward, Mertens has become one of the most effective scorers in any of Europe's top leagues, per Squawka Football:
He's a perfect fit for Sarri's intricate brand of football, which relies heavily on movement and confusion, and has made the Partenopei forget all about Gonzalo Higuain―who actually finished with fewer goals last season.
While Higuain became one of the most expensive transfers of all time when he moved to Juventus, Mertens was an absolute bargain, as shared by sports writer David Amoyal:
He's on the wrong side of 30, which explains why the release clause is relatively low, and even if the Reds and Red Devils are eligible to trigger the clause, a move seems unlikely. Mertens is playing his best football in Naples and appears perfectly happy at the club―he signed a new contract at the end of last season, after all.
The chance to cash in before he starts to decline could be a major factor toward a move, however, and could aid the Premier League giants.