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Nicolas Pepe: Will Premier League sides regret missing out?

23:37 SAST 2019/07/26
Lille winger Nicolas Pepe
The LOSC Lille star looks set to seal a move to Napoli, but why did clubs in England pass over the effective wideman?

After being linked with a move to some of the biggest sides in Europe in the last few months, Napoli appear primed to win the battle to sign Nicolas Pepe.

The potential big money move came to light on Friday morning, following Lille president Gerard Lopez‘s admission they’d agreed a fee with the Italian club for the winger.

"Napoli have satisfied our request of 80m Euros, now it will be up to the player to decide where to go, also on the basis of other proposals that his agents received from four clubs," Lopez told Tuttosport.

"Pepe will return from his holidays on Monday and I think that he will make his mind up halfway through the week.”

If the Ivory Coast International eventually opts to join Carlo Ancelotti, Gli Azzurri’s gain will be to the detriment of the Premier League’s top teams, many of whom were linked with a move for the Ivorian.

Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United were all understood to be interested in the 24-year-old following his impressive 2018/19 campaign where he scored 22 goals and registered 11 assists to carry Les Dogues to a second-place finish in Ligue 1.

Undoubtedly, a move to the initial pair was unlikely; given Jurgen Klopp’s side have Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah as the primary occupiers of the wide positions for the Reds, while the Blues’ two-window transfer ban meant a deal was never going to happen this summer.

That put the Gunners as well as United in pole position to secure the prolific winger’s signature, however it seems both sides will be beaten to the punch by the Italian heavyweights. Admittedly, from the outside looking in, it’ll never be known if either made a move for the player, but he could-and possibly should-have been an ideal recruit for either club.

Both clubs lack a recognized winger in their sides, and Pepe would’ve slotted in perfectly in either Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team or Unai Emery’s setup. Be that as it may, the North London club’s reported depleted budget ruled them out completely, while a lack of Champions League football (for a third successive season) has probably reduced their attractiveness to potential signings.

On the other hand, even though the Red Devils will have to make do with Europa League football in the upcoming season, they have shown a willingness to splurge in key areas and have signed Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James from Crystal Palace and Swansea City respectively. They’ve also been linked with a big money move for Leicester City colossus Harry Maguire to bolster their beleaguered backline.

Regardless of the fact they have high-earning Alexis Sanchez on their books, a move for Pepe while jettisoning the out-of-sorts Chile international could have been smart move, after all, this is a player who scored 22 goals and contributed 11 assists in Ligue 1 last term.  

Napoli appear to have won the battle to secure the signature of Pepe from Lille, and success for the highly rated wideman in Naples will certainly have the those who failed to consider him as a viable option wonder what might have been had they taken the plunge when they had the chance.

The Partenopei's gain may well prove to be the Premier League's loss.