Gregory Mertens: Belgian player 'needs miracle' after collapsing

By Chris OsborneBBC Sport
Gregory Mertens
Gregory Mertens started his career in the youth team of hometown club Anderlecht

Sporting Lokeren are "hoping for a miracle" after Belgian defender Gregory Mertens collapsed on the pitch with a heart-related illness.

He is in a critical condition after being given CPR in the first half of Monday's reserve-team game with Genk.

The 24-year-old is in an induced coma in a Genk hospital on a life support machine.

"Sporting Lokeren sympathises with the family and hopes for a positive outcome," read a club statement.

The Jupiler Pro League club say that the exact nature of Mertens' heart condition has yet to be established.

They added that Mertens passed all the pre-season health tests required by Europe's football governing body Uefa and was judged to be one of the fittest players at the club.

A former Belgium Under-21 international, Mertens joined Lokeren in the summer from Cercle Brugge, and has played in 15 league games this term, as well as against Hull City in the Europa League in August.

Monday's game was postponed while Mertens was being treated.

Chelsea keeper Thibaut Courtoisexternal-link and Everton striker Romelu Lukaku,external-link both Belgium internationals, have tweeted their support for Mertens, saying: "Keep fighting Gregory".

And the former Chelsea midfielder Kevin De Bruyne tweeted:external-link "Incredibly bad news. Keep fighting Gregory."

Thibaut Courtois tweet