By 90Min
September 18, 2017

In an interview with Football Italia, Napoli boss Maurizio Sarri has been heaping praise on his striker Dries Mertens after his fantastic performances this season.

There were reportedly plenty of interested parties vying for Mertens' signature this summer, but 

Sarri claims the Belgian is too valuable to his side to even consider selling:

Francesco Pecoraro/GettyImages

“Mertens is different in terms of characteristics to centre-forwards like Robert Lewandowski and Gonzalo Higuain, but when it comes to goals, he’s on the same level as one of the best strikers in the world. We never even considered letting him go," claimed Sarri.

Sarri was speaking after the Belgian had netted a hat-trick in the Derby di Campania against Benevento Calcio, as Napoli thrashed their opponents 6-0 at the Stadio San Paolo.

Despite his high praise for the player Sarri had decided to start Mertens on the bench for their opening Champions League fixture in mid week, a game in which they lost 2-1 in Ukraine. However the Italian coach has also moved to reiterate his reasoning for his decision:

“Clearly we asked the lads for a very different approach to the one seen in Ukraine,” said Sarri

“They did well, played a first half of a very high level and then controlled the game without problems. It is the response we wanted.

“If the game against Shakhtar had remained in the balance, then Mertens coming off the bench would’ve been a decisive weapon in our arsenal, just as he was last season against Benfica. The problem was that this time we were 2-0 down."

Despite their Champions League failings, after Napoli's thumping of Benevento, Sarri's side still sit at the top of the Serie A table after winning all of their first four games, along with Juventus and Inter Milan.

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