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Rumour Mongering: Liverpool Battle Inter for Nicolas Pepe

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According to reports in France today, it’s between the two clubs to meet Lille’s asking price. We don’t buy it.

FC Porto v Lille - Algarve Cup Photo by Carlos Rodrigues/Getty Images

Most expect Liverpool to sign a multi-purpose forward this season, an attacker with upside who is still good enough to provide a viable option to Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané from day one and ideally who could also fill in at striker.

Amongst the linked options that appear to fit the bill is Lille’s Nicolas Pepe, a pacy, technical 24-year-old winger who can play at centre forward. And today L’Equipe has claimed that the Reds are close to meeting Lille’s £70M valuation.

However, L’Equipe’s purported insight into what would be a major Liverpool summer move deserves more than a little skepticism, as the club’s interest in Pepe is painted as part of a massive summer overhaul that seems unlikely.

In the past, Liverpool have often felt a case of two steps forward, one step back as they try to climb back on to their perch amongst Europe’s elite, and a complete overhaul of the squad this summer would be just such a step back.

Yet counter to all reliable accounts—from journalists with ties to the club and from player statements—L’Equipe say that’s just what Liverpool are planning to do, with Pepe arriving in part because both Salah and Mané will be sold.

Further, soon after claiming Pepe in, Salah and Mané out, L’Equipe changed tack and said Inter Milan and not Liverpool were closest to signing him and were the first club to actually bid for the player, lodging a £60M offer with Lille.

Given how outlandish the whole thing seems, our best guess at this stage would be that Liverpool aren’t actually interested in Pepe and that Lille is leaking a sensational story to scare Inter or some other club into paying up.

It’s difficult, otherwise, to explain how a tale about Liverpool selling Salah and Mané this summer and throwing £70M at Nicolas Pepe makes it into the French press at the same time as stories of a firm Inter bid are coming out.

As such, we’re greeting today’s stories of Nicolas Pepe interest in L’Equipe as a rather conclusive sign that Liverpool will absolutely not be signing the player this summer under any circumstance.