Ricardo Pepi finds his perfect match in FC Augsburg

Chris Smith
Pepi has sealed his move to the Bundesliga
Pepi has sealed his move to the Bundesliga / Brad Smith/ISI Photos/GettyImages

Ricardo Pepi has completed his record-breaking move to German Bundesliga side, FC Augsburg.

Worth an initial $20m, it's the highest fee of any outgoing MLS homegrown player, and Augsburg's record transfer. He leaves the league as the third highest scoring teenager in regular-season history with 15 goals.

When Fuggerstädter initially emerged as the frontrunners for Pepi's signature - as revealed by 90min - there was skepticism. European giants like Ajax, Bayern Munich, and Real Madrid had previously shown interest while, to many, previous suitors Wolfsburg seemed a more attractive destination.

Upon Pepi's arrival, Augsburg sit just one place and one point above the relegation playoff spot in the German top flight, and only two places above the automatic drop zone. For an 18-year-old striker leaving his home country on a permanent basis for the first time, that's quite a challenging situation to enter.

But then, from his MLS breakout to bursting onto the USMNT scene with three goals and three assists in seven caps, little has fazed Pepi yet. You'd do well to find something that would, such are his supreme confidence and self-belief. He's willing to do whatever it takes to overcome obstacles and succeed.

The most important thing for the striker's career now is to keep playing games. That was the ultimate deciding factor behind the decision to send Pepi to the WWK Arena. Minutes are everything at his age, and to sit behind the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Karim Benzema, or Wout Weghorst would have been detrimental, no matter how much Pepi would learn from them.

"Playing time in the most competitive environment possible ahead of a World Cup was always one of the main tipping points on the scale," a source close to Pepi told 90min.

Upon his unveiling, the player himself said: "I see FC Augsburg and the Bundesliga as the perfect environment to be able to collect a lot of match practice at the highest level as a young player."

But more than just needing to give Pepi minutes, Augsburg need goals. Only three Bundesliga teams have scored fewer than their 17 goals so far this season. And among their entire squad, no individual player has more than three league goals to their name.

Pepi has already proven he can find goals on a struggling team, hitting the net 13 times in 24 MLS starts in 2021 for an FC Dallas outfit that finished 12th in the Western Conference. On his USMNT debut, it was Pepi who turned the game on its head, assisting the first and third goals and scoring the second in a 4-1 World Cup qualifying win over Honduras having trailed 1-0 at half-time.

Sure, to some, Pepi's move to Augsburg won't have the wow-factor that the likes of Bayern Munich and Wolfsburg would have had. But this is a decision made with the head; Pepi will get his reps and has the chance to make himself a hero by firing Augsburg to safety. The club need him to hit the ground running, that much is abundantly clear.

"Augsburg made it obvious that they were going all-in on Pepi and trusted him," the source added. "He likes to rise to the occasion and when someone gives him confidence, Ricardo is willing to do anything to repay them. He's always been that way."

Repay Augsburg by scoring the goals to keep them in the Bundesliga and it won't take long for the big names to come back to the table.