After a sensational season in Northern France for Christophe Galtier’s Lille side, Nicolas Pepe seems to be on the move this summer, with Europe’s largest clubs circling round the Ivorian winger.
Liverpool are the latest team to be touted with the 22-year-old. Journalist Mohamed Bouhafsi, who coincidentally broke the news of Fabinho moving to the Merseyside club and also key news regarding Fekir’s move to Liverpool, has reported that The Reds are preparing an £81million bid; an attempt to help bolster their attacking options.
This adds to the wide array of clubs that has already been linked to Pepe, such as Bayern Munich, Arsenal and Chelsea. Bouhafsi recently posted on Twitter that Bayern Munich and Liverpool were the two main options for Pepe, but soon a 3rd option will arise – Pepe wants to take his time and assess his options before making the next step in his career
Pepe has all the hallmarks of a great winger in the modern game; the ability to hug the touchline or play inside, explosiveness that can open up a game in an instance, work-rate that enables him to fit into modern systems and that natural instinct in the final third.
Whoever ends up with Pepe sure does have one hell of a player on their hands, and at 24 years old, it is scary to think of the numbers he will put up in his prime years – he notched up 22 goals and 11 assists for Lille last season.
Option A: Liverpool
After winning their 6th CL title, The Reds are set to have endless bargaining power in the summer.
From the days of Brendan Rodgers begging Steven Gerrard to get on the phone with Willian and Toni Kroos, to the statement above, it is clear that Klopp believes his club is able to attract the world’s best once again. A clear statement of intent would be pursuing the signature of Nicolas Pepe.
It would thus allow Jurgen Klopp to revert back to his preferred 4-2-3-1 structure that enabled his Dortmund side to enjoy so much success – with Firmino moving into the 10 role, Mane occupying the left wing position, Pepe thrusted out onto the right and Salah pushed up top, which could be a natural progression in the Egyptian’s game. Even if the Ivorian did not start every game, the depth that he would provide to Liverpool could finally help them match the quality City have on their bench, in players such as Riyad Mahrez and Leroy Sane.
Pepe would add ANOTHER weapon to Liverpool’s deadly attack – his game has been likened to how Sadio Mane’s role at Liverpool has developed. Mane has seen himself become a key creator within the Liverpool team, with his role resembling a mixture of an Inside Forward/Raumdeuter.
If Liverpool are able to mirror this on the right, it could create unstoppable combinations with the marauding Alexander-Arnold.
Option B: Bayern Munich
Even though they managed to win their 7th consecutive Bundesliga title, pipping Lucian Favre’s Dortmund to the title after seemingly been miles adrift mid-season, it is evident that the Bavarian club is ready to enter a rebuild.
With mainstays Arjen Robben and Frank Ribery saying their goodbyes to the German champions, a winger is likely to top of Niko Kovac’s agenda. It has been rumoured that Bayern’s No.1 target was Leroy Sane, but due to their inability to convince Pep to let him leave, they now have Pepe in their sights.
Seemingly, when you watch Pepe’s games, similarities between him and his German counterpart are apparent; their abilities to terrorize full-backs when they decide to be direct, touch-tight control making me question if they have glue on their boots.
With similar price tags, it may come down to preference for Kovac, and, personally, if a player is not 110% committed to joining your club and has any doubts as to whether it would be a good decision, they should not be chosen, and the target who will give their all to be in the team and prove himself should be chosen.
What I am alluding to is that I feel Sane would have forced through a move to Munich already if it is what he truly wanted, but he hasn’t – thus giving Pepe the chance to grab the headlines in Germany could be the best option for overall team spirit.
It is certain, he will leave…he has moved into a price range that we cannot afford anymore. There is a career choice for him to be made, I think he will have the choiceLille chairman, Gerard Lopez
Where do you think Lille’s star winger should go this summer? Let us know on Twitter @TasteofFtbl