Inter and Bayern Munich appear to have emerged as the frontrunners in the forthcoming race for Lille winger Nicolas Pepe, though Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain all remain in hot pursuit.
Pepe has been on the radar of many a top level European side for quite some time, with the winger impressing greatly throughout the season, notching 20 goals and 14 assists across all competitions. However, this reached a new level of fervour last weekend, when the Ivorian international scored one goal and assisted a further two in the 5-1 demolition of PSG.
And, speaking to Telefoot after his side inflicted the greatest defeat of the Parisians in 19 years, club president Gerard Lopez admitted he expected his prized star to depart Lille this summer, explaining: “Sure [Pepe’s going to leave]. He’s going to get into a range of prices and wages that LOSC will not be able to pay anymore.
“So, it’s clear that there’s a career choice for him too, after that, where will he go? We’ll see. We will not talk about a transfer until about mid-May. I think he’ll have a choice; we’ll see.”
As you can imagine, Lopez was right with this assessment, and, unsurprisingly, his words only served to increase the interest in the 23-year-old. Firstly, L'Equipe, as relayed by the Sun, reported that the Bavarians had emerged as the frontrunners, revealing that, having sent scouts to watch the PSG victory, they subsequently engaged in talks with the club over a potential summer switch.
However, FCB didn't stay at the top for long, with France Football promptly claiming Inter had set the summer bidding war rolling in earnest, lodging a €60m offer with the second-placed Ligue 1 side.
Could the Swiss midfielder be on his way to Italy this summer?https://t.co/wNZIbJ8a2D— 90min (@90min_Football) April 15, 2019
Whether this will be enough remains to be seen, though considering the calibre of suitor that remain in the hunt, that seems likely. It is understood that Chelsea see Pepe as a potential replacement for Eden Hazard, though that of course rests on the Belgian leaving for Real Madrid and the club successfully appealing their transfer ban.
For their part, the Parisians were looking into their destroyer before he became known as such, and it seems his dismantling of their rearguard has only cemented their desire to secure his services.
However, while United are sufficiently desperate for additional wingers and rarely afraid to splash the clash, there is some apparent reluctance in north London, with some members of the Arsenal hierarchy urging Unai Emery to look to Hoffenheim loanee Reiss Nelson instead.