Lille President 'Happy' for Nicolas Pepe to Stay in Ligue 1 Amid PSG Rumours

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistMay 4, 2019

LILLE, FRANCE - APRIL 14: Lille's Nicolas Pepe celebrates after scoring goal 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 Sylvain Lefevre/Getty Images)
Sylvain Lefevre/Getty Images

Lille know Nicolas Pepe will be finding a new club this summer, but team president Gerard Lopez doesn't care if it's Ligue 1 giants Paris Saint-Germain.

Lopez outlined what the summer will hold for his best player, Ivory Coast winger Pepe, per Goal:

"This is not a secret: we have had many approaches for Nicolas Pepe and we will never be able to match the salary he can get elsewhere. It's clear that he will go to a big club."

"I want him to go to a club that gives him the means to go beyond what Lille can do. The country doesn't matter. This is not an invitation to PSG but I would be very happy to see Nico continue to develop in Ligue 1 and France. There is only one club (in France) that can afford to have a player like him."

The idea of PSG signing one of the biggest talents operating in the French top flight makes sense. Les Parisiens did the same when they secured the signing of striker Kylian Mbappe from AS Monaco in 2017.

Pepe would surely be welcome in the French capital, with PSG manager Thomas Tuchel stating his admiration for the player last month in a media conference: "Pepe has a lot of quality with his speed and strength. He's determined around goal and always dangerous. I don't know his character and personality, but he's a good player."

Ironically, Tuchel's words proved prophetic—Pepe was the star performer when Lille thrashed the would-be Ligue 1 champions 5-1 on home soil.

Those numbers are just part of the story for Pepe, who has been setting standards to rival some of Lille's best-ever players.

The 23-year-old's consistent high-level performances have been recognised with a nomination for France's Player's Player of the Year Award, per BBC Sport.

Pepe following in the footsteps of Eden Hazard, who joined Chelsea back in 2012, seems close to a certainty. Many of Europe's top clubs are queuing up. Premier League giants Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea have all shown interest, according to Neil Fissler of the Sunday Express.

Fissler also named Bayern Munich, Inter Milan and PSG as keen suitors.

Of all of the interested parties, PSG may make the most sense for Pepe. Les Parisiens have an obvious need for another gifted wide player.

Angel Di Maria is a mercurial creator, but Julian Draxler has struggled to stay injury free and assert himself in France. Meanwhile, Moussa Diaby has potential but is still just 19 and not yet ready to help PSG take a step up in the UEFA Champions League.

By contrast, a front three of Pepe, Mbappe and Neymar would be dynamic and fluid enough to help Tuchel's men fare better in Europe's premier club tournament.

Beating the competition to sign a player valued at £70 million would be a coup for PSG. It would also provide Lille with the funds to replace the attacking talisman of the squad and fortify other areas of the team ahead of a first Champions League campaign since the 2012/13 season.

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