London club down chance to sign Dries Mertens

 Blues identified Dries as a target, with Frank Lampard desperate to strengthen his squad at Chelsea but look set to miss out on a winter deal.

Serie A giants are believed to be reluctant to sanction Mertens’ exit midway through the campaign and will only let the striker leave when his deal expires in the summer. He also showed a reluctance to leave the club this month, knowing he needs regular game time and to a high level to retain his place in Belgium’s squad ahead of Euro 2020.

But in a shocking development, Chelsea’s London rivals Gunners were offered the chance to sign him, only to pass up on the chance because of his age. While Dries, at the age of 32, could still have two or three more years at the top level, Gunners and coach Mikel Arteta are keen to sign younger footballers coming into their prime.

Arteta made Pablo Mari, 26, the first signing of his Gunners tenure this week, with the centre-back arriving on loan from Flamengo until the end of the campaign After joining Arsenal

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