Dries Mertens has posted a farewell message to Napoli fans, saying his exit was not how he would have planned it.
The Belgium forward’s nine-year stay at the Serie A club came to an end following the 2021-22 season after he rejected the offer of a new contract.
Napoli owner Aurelio De Laurentiis previously said Mertens turned down the offer of a new deal because he wanted more money, telling Radio Kiss Kiss: “I presented him with €4million per season gross and he refused.
“So I said thank you very much… I need to have money to buy young players who can represent Napoli in future seasons.”
In a message posted to his social media on Wednesday, Mertens said: “Dear Neapolitans, I knew this day would eventually come, but I didn’t know how difficult it would be to say goodbye.”
He also went on to praise the city of Naples for “adopting” him, pointing out that his son Ciro, who features in the video with him, was born in the city.
Non è un addio, è un arrivederci pic.twitter.com/osnXUaLBQr
— Dries Mertens (@dries_mertens14) August 3, 2022
The former PSV man added: “I did not leave as I would have liked” before finishing with: “this is not farewell, only goodbye.”
The Partenopei have seen Lorenzo Insigne, David Ospina, Kalidou Koulibaly and Arkadiusz Milik also depart during this transfer window, with Mertens leaving as the club’s record goalscorer with 148 goals.
He scored 11 times in 30 Serie A games last season, with his 126 minutes per goal the fourth-best return of any player in the Italian top flight to have netted at least 10 times.
Mertens, who has been linked with Inter, Juventus and Marseille, made 397 appearances for Napoli in all, placing him behind Insigne (434), Antonio Juliano (505), Giuseppe Bruscolotti (511) and Marek Hamsik (520).