Lille forward Nicolas Pepe has again been linked with a move to Liverpool after the Africa Cup of Nations - despite the Reds' continued attempts to deny the speculation.
After a breakout 2018/19 season with Lille in Ligue 1 - where he finished the campaign with 22 goals and as the league's second-highest scorer - Pepe has been linked with a number of the continent's biggest clubs.
French journalist Mohamed Bouhafsi (via GFFN) claims that Liverpool want to sign Pepe this summer, however maintain that they're 'scared' by his public silence on the matter, as he refuses to speak to potential suitors until he finishes his nation's AFCON campaign.
A report from earlier this week saw Pepe linked with a move to Everton as manager Marco Silva continues his search for a left-footed attacker to slot in on the right side of the offensive line.
Lille president Gerard Lopez has indicated that Pepe wouldn't remain at Lille this summer - claiming that the Ivorian has already received offers from two clubs for his services - with negotiations set to continue when Pepe returns from international duty.
Also worth categorically saying now that Liverpool have absolutely no interest in Nicolas Pepe. For all the stories that are coming from the continent, it is not a deal that will be happening.— Dominic King (@DominicKing_DM) July 10, 2019
These reports continue to contradict the narrative coming out of Merseyside, as the club insists that they haven't spoken to the player and that the rumours linking them with a summer move for Pepe are 'pure lies'.
It seems as though Lille are using the French media to drive up the price for Pepe, who is currently valued at £59m, by insisting that the European champions are in the race for his signature.
Links to big clubs have long been a negotiating tactic to get more cash out of smaller clubs, who may be pressured to make a larger offer before a competitor can swoop in. However, a look at Liverpool's squad and their summer transfer record makes this deal seem even more unlikely.
The Reds plan their transfer strategy by analysing the team's weaknesses and making strategic signings, even if they come at a high cost. After Loris Karius' disastrous showing at the 2017/18 Champions League final, the club shelled out what was then a world-record fee to sign Alisson, a decision that has already proven itself.
Lille president Gerard Lopez has confirmed that Liverpool are in talks with Nicolas Pepe over a summer move. pic.twitter.com/zc1hiy6fB7— Transfer News (@PurelyFootball) July 5, 2019
Pepe plays mainly as a right winger and on occasion goes up front as the main striker. Liverpool's man in this position is Mohamed Salah, who won back-to-back golden boots in the last two seasons.
So why should the Reds shell out over £50m for the 22-year-old, when they have one of the best wingers in the world already locked down? Salah's contract runs until 2023, he has expressed no desire to leave, and so replacing him at this point seems highly unlikely, as does signing an understudy who's had one good season in a weaker league at a very high cost.
Pepe hasn't impressed in Ivory Coast's AFCON campaign so far this summer, failing to score any goals in three appearances. They will continue on their quest for the title of Africa's finest on Thursday, as they face Algeria in the quarter-finals.