Dries Mertens has posted a farewell message to Napoli fans, stating that his departure was not planned.
The Belgium forward’s nine-year contract with the Serie A club expired at the end of the 2021-22 season after he turned down a new contract offer.
Napoli owner Aurelio De Laurentiis previously stated that Mertens refused a new contract offer because he wanted more money, telling Radio Kiss Kiss: “I presented him with €4 million per season gross and he refused.”
“So I thanked you very much… I need money to buy young players who can play for Napoli in the future.”
Mertens wrote on social media on Wednesday, “Dear Neapolitans, I knew this day would come, but I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to say goodbye.”
He went on to thank Naples for “adopting” him, noting that his son Ciro, who appears in the video with him, was born in the city.
“I did not leave as I would have liked,” the former PSV player admitted, before concluding, “this is not farewell, only goodbye.”
Lorenzo Insigne, David Ospina, Kalidou Koulibaly, and Arkadiusz Milik have also left the Partenopei during this transfer window, with Mertens leaving as the club’s record goalscorer with 148.
He scored 11 goals in 30 Serie A games last season, with his 126 minutes per goal ranking fourth among all players in the Italian top flight who have scored at least 10 goals.
Mertens, who has been linked with Inter, Juventus, and Marseille, appeared 397 times for Napoli, trailing only Insigne (434), Antonio Juliano (505), Giuseppe Bruscolotti (511) and Marek Hamsik (520).