Why Arsenal rejected chance to sign Chelsea transfer target Dries Mertens

Arsenal rejected the chance to sign Chelsea transfer target Dries Mertens (Picture: Getty)

Arsenal reportedly rejected the chance to sign Chelsea transfer target Dries Mertens.

Belgium forward Mertens has been heavily linked with a move away from Napoli during the January transfer window.

Chelsea identified the 32-year-old as a target – with Frank Lampard desperate to bolster his squad at Stamford Bridge – but look set to miss out on a January deal.

Napoli are believed to be reluctant to sanction Mertens’ exit midway through the season and will only let the Belgian star leave when his contract expires in the summer.

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Mertens also showed a reluctance to leave Napoli this month, knowing he needs to be playing regularly and to a high level to retain his place in Belgium’s squad ahead of Euro 2020.

But in a shock development, The Times say Chelsea’s London rivals Arsenal were offered the chance to sign Mertens, only to pass up on the opportunity because of his age.

While Mertens, at the age of 32, could still have two or three more years at the top level, Arsenal and manager Mikel Arteta are keen to sign younger players coming into their prime.

Arteta made Pablo Mari, 26, the first signing of his Arsenal tenure this week, with the Spanish defender arriving on loan from Flamengo until the end of the season.

After joining the Gunners, Mari said: ‘I’m happy to be here today and to have signed for a big club. I’m going to do my best to help my team-mates and the club.

‘When I spoke to my agent, it was a big thing that Arsenal were interested in me. This is one of the best clubs in the world, so I’m absolutely delighted to be joining.

‘I’m really looking forward to playing in this jersey and helping my team.’

Mikel Arteta made Pablo Mari, 26, his first Arsenal signing (Pictures: Getty)

Arsenal technical director Edu added: ‘Pablo is an experienced player who will provide us with additional defensive quality.

‘We have been monitoring Pablo’s career for a while and we are very pleased to have reached agreement with Flamengo for him to join us initially until the end of our season.

‘Together with Mikel and his coaching team, we are all looking forward to seeing Pablo in an Arsenal shirt.’

Arsenal, currently tenth in the Premier League, travel to Burnley on Sunday.

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