Barcelona’s interest in Lille forward Nicolas Pepe has been confirmed by the club’s president Gerard Lopez, although he has dismissed a January exit from materialising.
The 23-year-old has enjoyed a fine start to the season, scoring four goals and providing three assists in just five Ligue 1 appearances.
While the right wing is a more natural role, Pepe can also play up front, and as noted by Don Balon earlier in the week, the €30m-rated star is reportedly being eyed as a long-term successor to Luis Suarez up top.
The Uruguayan international turns 32 in January, and although he continues to put up impressive numbers for the Catalan giants, there is a sense that he is perhaps on the decline towards the latter stages of his career in terms of his overall play and lack of consistency.
With that in mind, a long-term replacement will be needed sooner rather than later, and Lopez has seemingly revealed that Pepe is on the Barcelona transfer shortlist to address the issue.
“It is true,” Lopez told RMC when asked about the reports of interest from Barcelona. “There are a few big clubs interested in him.
“Clubs contacted us directly after the transfer window to find out how to proceed. I wanted him to stay for at least one more season.”
It remains to be seen if he gets his wish or if Barca make their move earlier than expected. Nevertheless, given coach Ernesto Valverde appears to have enough quality and depth at his disposal this season, it could seemingly wait until the summer.
Given that the La Liga champions signed Malcom this past summer, to add to the likes of Lionel Messi and Ousmane Dembele in playing in support of the main striker, it’s unlikely that Pepe would arrive to offer more competition in that regard.
Instead, Suarez could come under increasing pressure to keep his place if a deal is done for the Ivorian international.