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Lille President Says Rumoured Arsenal Target Nicolas Pepe 'Sure' to Leave

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistApril 14, 2019

LILLE, FRANCE - APRIL 14: Nicolas Pepe #19 of Losc shoots the ball during the Ligue 1 match between Paris Saint-Germain and Lille OSC at Stade Pierre Mauroy on April 14, 2019 in Lille, France. (Photo by Catherine Steenkeste/Getty Images)
Catherine Steenkeste/Getty Images

Arsenal are one of three clubs who may be glad to hear the latest words from Lille president Gerard Lopez, who believes he won't be able to keep star player Nicolas Pepe.

The Ivory Coast winger has been linked with Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain, as well as the Gunners, and Lopez thinks it's not a matter of if Pepe will leave this summer, per Goal:

"This summer, I think we will sell four to five players, no more. All clubs are forced to balance their accounts except perhaps one. I would say yes, it is sure he will leave."

"He enters a price range that can no longer be paid. There is a career choice to make for him, I think he will have the choice."

Lopez's words are likely to prove prophetic after Pepe surely encouraged any suitors even more with his performance during Sunday's 5-1 win over PSG.

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Those contributions added to Pepe's eye-catching tally in the final third this season:

It's little wonder he is said to be attracting admiring glances from several of Europe's top clubs. Each of the named suitors have an obvious need to sign the gifted 23-year-old.

Arsenal head coach Unai Emery wants to add width to a forward line presently populated by central players operating out of position. Both Alex Iwobi and Henrikh Mkhitaryan are more effective creating chances from the middle, while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is a striker whose instincts for goal can be diluted somewhat, if not wasted altogether, on the flanks.

Emery's interest in a winger also has him considering a move for Bournemouth's Ryan Fraser, according to John Cross of the Daily Mirror.

The Gunners culled their options out wide last season when Emery's predecessor Arsene Wenger parted company with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott and Alexis Sanchez.

Those moves explain why Arsenal would have a "long-standing interest" in Pepe, per Football.London's James Benge.

Emery could add to Arsenal's options on the flanks this summer.
Emery could add to Arsenal's options on the flanks this summer.Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

It's interest Bayern Munich would be expected to challenge, after Die Roten were credited with offering €80 million back in March, according to BeIn Sports (h/t Sport). However, Lopez subsequently said no decision would be made until May.

Bayern need a refresh on the wings because Arjen Robben is set to leave this summer, while Franck Ribery's future is uncertain.

Ironically, PSG may be Pepe's most intriguing next destination since Lille manager Christophe Galtier told Le Parisien (h/t Goal's Ben Spratt) how the player "would be more than useful" for the Ligue 1 leaders.

What is clear is how Pepe will be in demand if Lille are serious about the possibility of cashing in. He's no longer a secret and is instead destined for stardom at a higher level, meaning Arsenal will need to be in the UEFA Champions League and prepared to stump up the cash to beat the competition.