What Mertens (36) failed to do with Napoli and PSV, succeeds in Turkey: become champion
Tears flowed among Napoli supporters as they said goodbye to their darling Dries Mertens last summer. The little Belgian, affectionately called “Ciro” in Naples, made the most of nine seasons in Naples, winning the Coppa Italia twice and leaving as the club’s all-time top scorer (113 goals).
But he did not succeed in becoming champion, although Napoli was close a few times. Surely it must have hurt a little, that precisely after his departure Napoli won the third scudetto.
Mertens did not have to mourn for long. On Tuesday night the 36-year-old striker won the first national title of his illustrious career. With Galatasaray he became champion of Turkey thanks to a 4-1 victory over Ankaragücü.
As dominant as he was in Naples, Mertens was not in his first season in Turkey. That honor was reserved for Mauro Icardi. The Paris Saint-Germain mercenary scored two goals in the championship match and brought his season total to 21.
For the Istanbul superpower it is already the 23rd national title, but the last one was four years ago.
This summer, Galatasaray strode heavily with money to regain the title. In addition to Icardi and Mertens, Italian prodigy Nicolò Zaniolo, among others, was cut loose from AS Roma, Juan Mata came over from Manchester United and Swiss goal scorer Haris Seferovic chose Galatasaray over Benfica.
Besides Mertens, two more former Eredivisie players celebrated the championship party. Fredrik Midtsjø came over from AZ and Milot Rashica (former Vitesse) left Norwich City for Turkey. The striker celebrated – just when there is a lot of unrest in his homeland again – with the flag of Kosovo.
Galatasaray grabbed the lead after the fifteenth round of play and did not relinquish it. Fenerbahçe still hoped for a thrilling apotheosis – Sunday the two top clubs play each other – and did what it had to do.
The club of Ferdi Kadioglu and bench player Jayden Oosterwolde did what it had to do, beating Antalyaspor (of coach Nuri Sahin and assistant Fons Groenendijk) 2-0, but can no longer overtake Galatsaray.
The gap to the rival is five points with two rounds of play to go. However, Hatayspor and Gaziantepspor, Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe’s opponents on the final day, have not been in action since the terrible earthquake in early February.
Premium for Van Aanholt?
Patrick van Aanholt may also face a championship premium. The left-back played ten more games in the shirt of Galatasaray this season before being rented by the club to PSV.