Napoli forward Dries Mertens was close to agreeing a move to Chelsea this summer, before a change of heart meant he will now be extending his stay in Italy beyond the 2019/20 season.
The 33-year-old became Gli Azzurri's all-time top goalscorer on Saturday night when he netted his 122nd goal during a 1-1 draw with Inter in the Coppa Italia semi-final.
He was set to become a free agent in the summer, with many teams including Inter and Newcastle setting their sights on signing him – but Kristof Terreur reports that it was the Blues who came closest to luring the forward away from southern Italy, having made an approach in January.
"In January when Chelsea knocked on the door, he was quite convinced," the Belgian journalist told BBC Radio 5 Live. "But once you are in the south of Italy, with good money and you are a god, why would you change that? He would come to the Premier League as a nobody and in Italy he is a star."
Terreur went on to add that Mertens' love for London, a city he and his wife are said to visit often for mini-breaks, helped to make a move to Stamford Bridge a highly attractive prospect/
Instead, the Belgian has chosen to remain in the south of Italy, having agreed a new three-year deal that will likely tie him down for the rest of his playing days. It will provide him a chance to further cement his legend status at Napoli, having played over 300 games for the team since joining from PSV Eindhoven in 2013.
Meanwhile, the Blues have invested heavily in their attack, signing Ajax star Hakim Ziyech for €40m and – by all accounts – agreeing to sign RB Leipzig striker Timo Werner for another €60m. It looks as though they won't stop there, having shown interest in bringing Bayer Leverkusen starlet Kai Havertz to the Premier League - although they're said to be a long way off making that deal happen.
Source : 90min