Koulibaly praises Mertens ahead of Coppa Italia final

Koulibaly praises Mertens ahead of Coppa Italia final
Napoli's defender Kalidou Koulibaly (L) reacts during the Italian Serie A soccer match SSC Napoli vs US Lecce

by Graeme Jackson

Wednesday Jun 17, 2020. 13:00

Senegalese international Kalidou Koulibaly has heaped praise on Napoli teammate Dries Mertens ahead of their date with Juventus in the Coppa Italia tonight.

Mertens became the Neapolitans’ all-time leading goal scorer last weekend when he netted in a 1-1 draw with Internazionale which secured a 2-1 aggregate triumph in the semifinal tie.

The Belgian forward now has 122 Napoli goals to his name, putting him top of the pile ahead of Marek Hamsik (121) Diego Maradona (115), Attila Sallustro (108) and Edinson Cavani (104).

“I spent a lot of time with him [Mertens] in the early days of Napoli,” Koulibaly told Sky Sports Italia.

“He came to pick me up at home and took me to Castel Volturno. We had a lot of laughs on the journeys between Naples and the sports centre.

“He spoke to me in my first year and told me not to give up because he believed in me a lot. It can be seen that he grew up in a serene and happy family. I wish him all the best in the world because he really deserves it.

“He has grown a lot, has become a killer. He is the Higuain [who scored 91 goals in three years] of Napoli because he knows how to do everything, he is a really important player and I am proud to play with him.”

If Napoli can claim victory over Juve and former coach Maurizio Sarri in Rome tonight, it will represent Koulibaly’s second trophy with the club, following the 2014 Supercoppa Italiana when he first moved to Serie A.

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