For going on two seasons now, Liverpool have relied almost entirely on the front three of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino, and Sadio Mané staying fit and in form and the trio have delivered, establishing themselves as arguably Europe’s top attacking force.
Still, it’s a situation that can’t help but leave fans feeling a little nervous, asking if it’s wise to count on the trio being able to play 50 games a season every season. And most expect the club will sign at least one attacker this summer to strengthen the position.
The most popular option has long been Timo Werner, who is 23 and seems to check all the boxes for an attacker in Jürgen Klopp’s system. In recent weeks, though, an interesting alternative has pushed his way into the conversation: Lille’s Nicolas Pepe.
Like Werner, the Ivorian international Pepe is 23 this season, making him three to four years younger than the members of Liverpool’s attacking trio. And while Pepe doesn’t quite have Werner’s track record, on paper he has all the tools to fit in at Liverpool.
The pacy forward gets most of his minutes on the wing for Lille but also has experience leading the line, and this season he has broken out at Lille with 20 goals and 12 assists in 36 total appearances, good for a goal involvement every 99 minutes.
Caveats about the weaker French league aside, it’s a world class return for a young player who appears to have taken a very, very big step forward this season—and whose agent has been openly talking up a Premier League move in recent weeks.
While it might have been possible to think his agent was simply angling for a better deal, Lille’s president has now admitted “it is certain” Pepe will leave this summer, one of four to five potential departures as Lille look to balance their books.
Across the board, the tabloids in England seem to think Liverpool are frontrunners for Pepe. In France, they think the Reds are at least interested—along with Chelsea and Arsenal and, outside of England, maybe even German giants Bayern Munich.
As far as reliable sources with ties to Liverpool go, there hasn’t been anything to suggest they actually are, but it does appear that Pepe will be sold and on paper at least he’s an exciting player at the right age who would fill a need.