According to various media reports, including in the Daily Express, European champions Liverpool are set to launch a £71million move for Lille winger Nicolas Pepe.
The 23-year-old enjoyed a sensational campaign, leading the French club to second place in the Ligue One, scoring 23 goals and producing 13 assists in all competitions. Pepe’s displays led to links with moves to Arsenal, Tottenham and Internazionale amongst others.
His French club has already accepted that they will lose the Ivory Coast international this summer. His destination may now be slightly clearer.
Similar raw talent to Mane
Pepe has come on leaps and bounds this season. He has harnessed his pace and used it to devastating effect from out wide for the French club. However, at 23 years old, Pepe is still a player that could develop his game even further.
In some ways, Pepe is in a similar mould to his Senegalese teammate Sadio Mane, who is already at Liverpool. He showed promise elsewhere, but it was not until this season that Mane really pushed on.
When Mane arrived in the Premier League with Southampton, he was raw and highly-inconsistent. He has found consistency in his last few seasons with the Reds, though, especially this season when he finished as joint top scorer in the Premier League.
Where would he fit into the Liverpool team?
Liverpool’s front three has changed very little in the past two seasons, with Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino a permanent fixture for the Reds.
The winger seems unlikely to replace either wide player, Salah or Mane, while Pepe does not really play in the same position as central forward Firmino. They do rotate on the pitch, but it’s hard to see Pepe dislodging the trio.
That brings us to a strange rumour regarding Liverpool’s Egyptian star Mohamed Salah. The story doing the rounds is that Salah may well be unsettled at Anfield after tension with Reds boss Jurgen Klopp.
There are reports in some quarters that the Reds would consider selling their star man. It would be a massive blow to the Merseysider’s to lose Salah this summer. It seems crazy at the minute, but as we know in football anything is possible.
A move for Pepe would make no logical sense at the minute if all of the team’s current front three remains at the club. The 23-year-old would be just an expensive benchwarmer for the Reds.
Liverpool looking to strengthen ahead of another title challenge
As we all know, Liverpool finished second place in the Premier League table last season, just a point behind champions Manchester City. The Reds are second favourites to finish next season as Premier League champions.
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp will be looking to strengthen his already strong squad this summer. Nicolas Pepe is no doubt a very good player and would strengthen the Reds squad for their title challenge and defence of their Champions League crown.
However, if the mooted fee is correct and he is joining as just a squad player, then it seems like a strange move from the Merseysider’s, with other areas of the team less strong than their attacking options.
Will Nicolas Pepe be joining Liverpool this summer?