Reports emanating from France over the last 24 hours suggest that the race is hotting up for in-demand Lille attacker Nicolas Pepe.
Pepe, a 24-year-old Ivorian winger, proved Ligue 1’s breakout star this season.
The gifted African notched 22 goals and 11 assists across 38 league outings for Christophe Galtier’s Lille, proving one of the key contributors to Les Dogues’ surprise 2nd-placed finish in the French top-flight.
Pepe is noted for his turn of pace, ability to beat defenders, eye for a killer pass and, evidently based on his stellar goal return, penchant for finding the net on a consistent basis.
Premier League links
As such, the explosive attacker’s stellar form at the Stade Pierre Mauroy has inevitably seen Pepe linked with a number of Europe’s top clubs.
To this point, the likes of Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea, Barcelona, PSG and Bayern Munich have been named as suitors of the Lille standout.
Arsenal were even linked with a big-money swoop for Pepe in January:
Arsenal leading chase for Nicolas Pepe but lots of competition emerging. L’Equipe this morning suggest Lille will negotiate in January if a club opens bidding at €50m. But owner has previously stated he won’t sell mid season
— Matt Spiro (@mattspiro) December 17, 2018
‘Liverpool accelerate interest’
A surprise report from French outlet L’Equipe earlier this month, however, suggested that a new pair of front-runners had emerged in the Pepe sweepstakes.
The sides named were Inter Milan and Liverpool.
In fact, the former were said to have already tabled a 70 million Euro bid for the Ivorian.
Somewhat surprisingly, though, it was added that Liverpool were ready to lodge an even better offer of their own, worth a hefty 80 million Euro.
Liverpool have accelerated interest in Lille attacker Nicolas Pépé & appear to be closing in on offering the €80m excluding bonuses demanded by Les Dogues, according to L’Équipe.
— Get French Football News (@GFFN) June 6, 2019
Inter’s massive bid
And L’Equipe have since provided a fresh update on the situation.
As per the French outlet, Serie A giants Inter have upped their initial offer by a further 20 million Euro, to a staggering 90 million Euro.
Atletico Madrid, meanwhile, are said to be readying a similar bid of their own.
Both of these claims, however, should be taken with a pinch of salt.
Inter Milan have, of course been heavily linked with a move for Manchester United hitman Romelu Lukaku of late.
Recent reports, though, suggest that the Nerazzurri will not be able to afford the Belgian, until Mauro Icardi is sold.
As such, it would come as a major surprise if Antonio Conte’s men had found a way to fund a 90 million Euro offer for Pepe, before parting with Icardi.
Atletico Madrid, on the other hand, are said to be keen to bring in Pepe to offset the imminent departure of Antoine Griezmann.
The Rojiblancos, however, are widely-expected to announce the 120 million Euro signing of Benfica wonder-kid Joao Felix this week.
On interest from the Premier League, L’Equipe add that, of the English heavyweights continuing to keep an eye on Pepe’s situation, it is Liverpool who appear ‘especially’ keen.
Reds’ boss Jurgen Klopp is said to be a huge admirer of the African attacker’s talents.