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Magpies Set to Snatch Mertens From Under Man United’s Noses?

As Newcastle look to respond to the disappointing 3-1 setback away to Fulham last weekend with a must-win clash at Championship strugglers Birmingham, reports have incredulously surfaced in the Belgian press that the Toon are set to launch a dramatic bid to sign Manchester United target Dries Mertens from Napoli.

The 29-year-old Belgium international has found the net 24 times in 34 appearances this term but is embroiled in a long-running contract dispute with the Serie A contenders’ upper brass, attracting interest from the likes of Inter Milan, West Ham and Man United.

According to Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad, however, the prolific goalscorer is potentially set to snub other approaches and instead come to Tyneside this summer.

Following the departure of Gonzalo Higuaín from the Italian side, Mertens has found the form of his life at Napoli, generally being employed as a striker this term as opposed to his more traditional position of winger. With 19 of the forward’s goal haul coming in Serie A, Napoli are unlucky to find themselves only third in the table.

Of course, the ability for the Toon to poach Mertens from under the noses of Manchester United – with whom the striker has reportedly already held talks – depends not only on a typically frugal Mike Ashley reaching for his chequebook come the end of the season, but also on Newcastle’s ability to win promotion to the Premier League. And despite the Magpies currently sitting in top spot in the Championship and being listed as 1/33 favourites in the football betting to achieve promotion, that in itself will be no mean feat.

Having succeeded in picking up only one point in their last two matches – disappointing showings against Fulham and Reading – Newcastle find themselves under a little bit of pressure at the moment. Currently leading Brighton only on the merit of a favourable goal difference, the Toon also find themselves now only six points ahead of in-form side Huddersfield, with the West Yorkshire side having a game in hand.

This weekend, the Terriers take on 22nd placed Bristol City, who should not present much of a challenge for David Wagner’s men. Brighton, meanwhile, face fellow promotion hopefuls Leeds United away from home, in what should be a much tougher test.

That being said, Newcastle must almost certainly win their match against the Brummies to cling onto top spot heading into the international break; a milestone which will surely give the side the psychological advantage as the close-season resumes early next month.

Rafael Benitez will be looking to skipper Jamaal Lascelles to lead from the front after a woeful showing against Fulham, while this year’s star striker Dwight Gale will be desperate to re-find the net after failing to score in Newcastle’s last two. Having tasted Premier League action during a hit-and-miss spell with Crystal Palace prior to his arrival at St James’ Park, Gale has excelled at Championship level this term and will be keen to prove he belongs in English football’s highest tier.

One man who will undoubtedly be watching with interest this weekend is Dries Mertens – and Newcastle will know that victory could potentially take them one step closer to potentially netting a superstar signing.

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