Ricardo Pepi has become one of the hottest prospects in world football and a much sought-after talent that teams across Europe have their eye on heading towards the January transfer window.
At just 18 years of age, the United States international has already made quite the name for himself, with it looking increasingly likely that MLS side FC Dallas will have to sanction a sale in the new year.
USMNT legend Brad Friedel is among those to have watched Pepi’s development to this point with excitement and believes it is only a matter of time before he graces a bigger club stage.
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What has been said?
Friedel, speaking to GOAL in association with sports betting site Betway US, said of Pepi: “He burst onto the scene and he has the ability to play in most countries in Europe because of his style.
“He is big, he’s strong, he has got some pace, good feet, good finisher, so you could see him in the Premier League, in the Bundesliga, you could see him playing in Holland, in Spain and Italy. It seems like he could adapt to any league.
“Watching him, it seems like he has got just about everything and now needs all the experiences and games, needs to play with and against the best in the world to really see where the ceiling is.”
Pressed further on whether the winter window presents Pepi with a perfect opportunity in which to take a next step, Friedel added: “It’s the right time for MLS, whether it’s the right time for a European club, I don’t know.
“That’s one of the down sides to the MLS windows, that the better transfer market is coming up now in the winter because the season finishes. In the summer, teams don’t like to sell their best players.
“For MLS, yes, it’s best to do the deal now. For European clubs, do they have budgets and do they want to have somebody now because it’s in January? Perhaps a country like Germany might be best suited that has more of an extended winter break and are used to having changes in the middle of winter and it’s easier to bring in new players.
“If MLS ended their season in the summer, then I would say that he will be going in the summer window. I would assume that he is going to go in the January window, but we will have to wait and see what European club will take him in January.”
Where will Pepi end up?
There has been plenty of speculation regarding Pepi’s next move, with the youngster making it clear that he sees himself gracing the very highest level at Chelsea or Real Madrid at some stage.
Friedel would not be against such a leap being made, but would want loan guarantees to be included in any deal for a player that needs to be getting regular game time.
The former Liverpool, Blackburn and Tottenham goalkeeper said: “He needs to go somewhere he is going to play. He could sign for one of the big boys as long as he goes on loan to ensure that he is going to play. Playing is where you are going to learn the most.
“There are a lot of good landing spots for him. It doesn’t have to be Germany but there have been a lot of successful, especially young players, that have gone to Germany.
“It’s all about what the deal is and where the kid wants to go. I don’t know what his mentality is but there are some wonderful clubs in Germany that would be fantastic stepping stones for him.”
On Pepi’s comments regarding European superpowers and whether he will scale those heights in time, Friedel added: “As long as he’s managed properly.
“I would probably steer him away from those kind of comments until he is actually there and training every day with these players, because it is different when you’re over there and you get to see exactly how good a lot of players are. You get to see how good a lot of players that are unknown to you are. There is a long conveyor belt of talent in Europe.”