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Barcelona’s interest in Lille winger Nicolas Pepe has been revealed by the Ligue 1 club’s president, Gerard Lopez.
Asked about Barca being keen on Ivory Coast international Pepe, Lopez said, per RMC Sport (h/t Ryan Taylor of the Daily Express): “It’s true. There are some great clubs that are interested in him.”
Lopez also expressed hope Pepe won’t be moving anytime too soon: “The clubs contacted us directly after the summer market to find out the way forward. I hope he stays at least one more season.”
Barca are likely to stay on the case after Taylor named La Liga’s giants “a club who regularly scout the French first division.”
Michel Spingler/Associated Press
Even so, the Blaugrana can expect to face competition for the 23-year-old Pepe. Interest is already brewing among prominent members of England’s top flight.
Arsenal are among the interested parties, per Le10 Sport (h/t Taylor). He also noted how Telefoot have thrown Manchester United’s name into the hat.
Having a trio of Europe’s top clubs on his case is a reflection of Pepe’s impressive development at Lille. Barca’s technical secretary, Eric Abidal, thinks the prospect of signing the gifted attacker is “very, very interesting,” per Mundo Deportivo (h/t Naveen Ullal of Sport Witness).
There’s no doubt Pepe’s talents are intriguing. He’s made a terrific start to the season, scoring four times and providing three assists in Ligue 1, while also finding the net in the Coupe de France.
Those contributions have helped Lille climb the table in record-setting fashion:
OptaJean ⭐⭐ @OptaJean
13 – Lille have picked up 13 points after six games in Ligue 1 2018/19, their highest tally at this stage in their history in the top-flight (counting three points for a win). Hot. #LOSCFCN https://t.co/X1qg2D2HkV
For all his impressive numbers, other statistics indicate Pepe remains a raw prospect:
Nicolas Pepe: Has been dispossessed more times (127) than any other player since the start of the 2017/18 Ligue 1 season
For more player stats — https://t.co/eyJ610HdfT https://t.co/MgYcgw4w7S
He would need playing time at the Camp Nou in order to up his game, but Pepe may find minutes tough to come by if he swapped Lille for Barca. The Blaugrana are well-stocked in attacking areas, particularly from the flanks, where France international OusmaneDembele and Malcom, who signed from Bordeaux this summer, ply their trade.
As somebody who mostly does his damage from the right, Pepe would be competing with attacking talisman Lionel Messi for starts. He would likely find himself languishing on the bench for a while in Barcelona, a possible waste of his obvious potential.