Chelsea are lining up a transfer approach for Lille attacker Nicolas Pepe, who Arsenal have already identified as their number one target.
The 23-year-old has taken French football by storm this season, contributing 19 goals and 11 assists in 32 matches to fire Christophe Galtier’s side to second in the Ligue 1 table.
His performances have not gone unnoticed, with a wide range of top European clubs reportedly keeping an eye on his progress, including Arsenal.
According to The Sun, the Gunners have been interested in signing Pepe for a few months now, while Paris Saint Germain, Bayern Munich and Manchester United are also monitoring his situation.
However, The Daily Mirror reports that Chelsea are plotting to hijack Arsenal’s proposed move for the Ivory Coast goal machine, who Lille value at around £70 million.
The Blues have identified Pepe as the ideal replacement for Eden Hazard, who is expected to join Real Madrid in the summer transfer market, but the club’s legal issues might hold back any potential deal.
Chelsea were hit with a two-window transfer ban earlier in the year and if their final appeal is unsuccessful, they will be unable to bring in Pepe, or anyone else for that matter until 2020.
The club are confident of winning their appeal though and Pepe is the first man on their list as preparations for the 2019-20 campaign begin to take shape.
The Lille star certainly has the attributes to fill Hazard’s boots, with his electrifying pace and clinical edge in the final third of the pitch, but it remains to be seen whether or not he can be as effective in English football as he has been in France.
The Blues may need one or two more players in addition to Pepe if they lose Hazard, purely because his influence on the team has been so great over the last seven years.
Supporters may be excited by the prospect of landing Arsenal’s primary transfer target from right under their noses, but these are uncertain times at Stamford Bridge and there could be plenty more twists and turns in this saga between now and the start of next season.