Manchester United are interested in signing Lille forward Nicolas Pepe for £45m, according to reports in the English media.
The Ivorian is expected to leave the Ligue One club with president Gerard Lopez having confirmed the 23-year-old’s likely departure in the summer:
“This is not a secret: we have many approaches to Nicolas Pepe and we will never be able to match the salary he may have elsewhere. It is clear that he will go to a big club.”
Pep has been in outstanding form for Lille this campaign, having scored 21 goals and laid on 12 assists in all competitions. It’s not a flash in the pan either after having scored 14 last season.
Unsurprisingly, United will have a battle on their hands if they want to secure the winger’s signature with the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea, Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain all believed to be keen on the player.
Despite that, it appears the Red Devils are going to press ahead with their interest in Pepe, and in my view, he’s definitely the right type of player the club should be going after.
At 23, he is yet to reach his peak and has room to develop into a world class player if given the right environment. With the likes Angel Di Maria and Alexis Sanchez, United have tried to buy a ready-made end product in recent years, but the club’s past is peppered with players who have come in at a young age and developed their game, none more so than Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney.
Pepe may not reach those heights, but the Ivorian’s directness and pace would also perfectly aline with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s counter-attacking style of play. The Norwegian employed a front three of Martial, Rashford and Lingard in the early weeks of his interim reign with great success.
No doubt, the club will be looking at recruiting more speed on the flanks in the transfer market this summer with the Lille forward looking like a perfect target to fill the role. Combined with his eye of goal, and his overall creativity, he has all the qualities to be a big hit at Old Trafford.
There is, of course, one massive caveat to consider, would he move to Manchester? In the past, there would have been no questions asked about a player’s motivation to join United, but there are some hard truths about the club’s current predicament.
Lille will be in the Champions League next season, as will many of Pepe’s potential suitors. It will likely be a much harder sell than it used to be to persuade a player of his calibre to play in the Europa League, especially with interest from so many other teams.
United’s pulling power could still be enough to get the deal over the line, but despite him looking like an ideal signing, there’s no guarantee that the club can pull this one off.