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Dries Mertens progress delights Benitez

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Dries Mertens progress delights Benitez
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Dries Mertens progress delights Benitez

Napoli coach Rafael Benitez has praised the development of forward Dries Mertens since his move from PSV in June.

The Belgium international scored in Napoli's 4-2 win over Lazio on Sunday as Benitez's men strengthened their grip on the final Champions League place.

It was Mertens' eighth Serie A goal since joining from the Eredivisie side and Benitez has been pleased with his progression at the Stadio San Paolo. 

"I know Dries very well, I know perfectly what he can do here in Italy, he is learning to perform proficiently in his mission in the defensive phase," he said. "He is an exemplary professional who still can improve and give us even more of the many things that he is already giving us."

Sunday's victory also saw Gonzalo Higuain score his first hat trick for the club as Napoli bounced back from defeat to Parma last time out.

While its strong campaign has not been enough to match leading pair Juventus and Roma, the club looks almost certain to secure a Champions League berth this term, Benitez feels Napoli's balance can aid future progress.

"We saw three goals from [Gonzalo] Higuain, a beautiful Mertens goal, and we have put on a great show for our fans, who deserve our respect," he said. "I always say that you can play with both a good defensive phase as well as an offensive one.

"What really counts, and always has been instrumental in all the teams I've worked with, is the perfect balance between the two."

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