Dries Mertens: Can he perform at the highest level?

Napoli new-boy, Dries Mertens, is the latest to leave the Rood-witten, in what is quickly becoming an Eindhoven exodus.

So far the Dutch club have witnessed the departures of key players in Erik Pieters and Jeremain Lens – two pivotal components in PSV’s valiant title charge in last season’s Eredivisie campaign.

The Belgian international, now hitting his prime at 26, has featured in 172 matches to date, ranging from matches in the Tweede Klasse, the 6th tier of Dutch football, the Belgian Second Division, the Eredivisie, the Europa League and last but not least at international level with the Rode Duivels. 

The upcoming editions of the Serie A and the UEFA Champions League respectively will be uncharted territory to say the least for the Leuven-born winger. The vast gulf in quality between the ‘lesser’ leagues of European football and the ‘Big 4′ in the Premier League, Bundesliga, Liga BBVA and Serie A has been well-documented, even more so when comparing the Champions and Europa Leagues.

With the tremendous step up in performance required, coupled with the necessity to impress and stake a claim for a starting spot in the star-studded national team with the 2014 FIFA World Cup looming, he faces the uphill task of proving his worth and ability.

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Mertens predominantly operates on the left-wing, and, like your average inside-forward, opts to cut inside to create using his favoured foot, the right, in Dries’ case.

As far as play-styles go, Mertens’ is very much a carbon copy of your modern day wingers’. What sets him apart from your run-of-the-mill inside-forward though is his ability to carry out and execute the set ‘duties’ of the inside-forward to near-perfection.

To simplify, Dries Mertens is a class above your average right-footed left-winger in almost every category – pace, crossing ability, vision, finishing ability, awareness and work-rate, to name a few; his record speaking for itself, notching up a staggering 44 goals and 11 assists in his 80 appearances for the Dutch side to date.

His inclination, or even persistence to operate as an almost right-foot exclusive player has led to certain deficiencies in his overall game, most notably his significantly poor left-foot. This, coupled with his apparent tendency to ‘go missing’ and underperform during important matches has sparked some debate over his ability to perform at this level.

His ability and potential undoubted, Dries Mertens possesses all the necessary qualities to become a world-class player – but can he perform at the highest level? Only time will tell.

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