Nicolas Pepe is attracting interest from across Europe due to his stunning season for Lille.
Lille currently find themselves in second place in Ligue 1 as they have managed to upset the traditional heavyweights aside from PSG, who basically have the title wrapped up at this point, and a major reason for this is the talented youngsters they have including Nicolas Pepe. Barcelona have been linked with the 23-year-old over the course of the season as they look for attacking reinforcements.
According to France Football, PSG and Barcelona are the favourites to sign Pepe and the player appears to be willing to wait for offers from these European giants as he rejected Sevilla, Schalke and Lyon in the summer. The Catalans can’t offer the same financial incentives as PSG, but there is the history of the club, footballing philosophy, potential silverware and playing with Lionel Messi that can be used to sway his opinion.
The Ivorian winger is the chief creator and goalscorer for the team — 16 goals and 10 assists in the league which means he has been directly involved in an astonishing 62% of their goals in the league. He is having a remarkable individual season, but this is naturally increasing his potential transfer fee with the latest valuation being over €50 million.
Barcelona’s main priority in the attacking department is a striker as they need to replace Luis Suarez who is in the process of a gradual decline. Therefore, Pepe would have to play centrally if he joined the club or Messi would have to play as a false 9. This could work as Malcom, Ousmane Dembele and Pepe are able to play either side of Messi. At least one of them would need to make runs in behind to stretch the defence as well as utilising the space vacated by Messi and ensure Barcelona’s play isn’t too predictable.
Pepe is certainly a player the club should be heavily interested in, but they need to make sure he would fit into the future of the squad otherwise it will be another wasted investment. Of particular interest is Messi’s future role at the club because the needs of the team need to be worked around that. He could end up playing centrally or being dropped back into a deeper role due to his passing ability and vision. This naturally has an effect on the type of the players the club will bring in, but Pepe’s wide skillset may end up helping him in this regard.