Manchester United and Liverpool look to have been dealt a major blow to their rumoured pursuits of Lille forward Nicolas Pepe in this summer’s transfer window.
A recent report from the Times claimed both Premier League giants were among the numerous suitors for the Ivory Coast international, valued by his club at around £70million.
MORE: Video: Man United fan’s hilarious reaction after Juan Mata signs his shoe at open training session
Pepe shone for Lille last season, looking one of the most exciting talents coming out of Ligue 1 or indeed any top league in Europe.
However, it now looks as though it’s increasingly unlikely he’ll be heading to England next as Napoli manager Carlo Ancelotti confirmed talks taking place over bringing him to the Stadio San Paolo.
As quoted by Football Italia, Ancelotti said: “They were in our hotel. I said hello, as I did with all the agents who came here. Obviously, we are interested in Pepe, his agents are here and there’s no point hiding that. Negotiations are in progress and we’ll see what happens.
“Pepe is a wide attacking player. We want to find someone who can play between the lines, without forgetting that Milik is a centre-forward, but also strong with his feet.”
This would be a superb purchase by the Serie A giants, with Pepe perhaps doing well to use a club like Napoli as a stepping stone before an even bigger move later.
The 24-year-old could benefit a lot from playing under an experienced manager like Ancelotti, and showing what he can do in a more competitive league.
This would then surely pave the way to join one of Europe’s more established ‘super clubs’ later on, though it’s a blow for United and Liverpool for the time being.
Pepe would have been particularly useful for Man Utd as they push to break back into the top four, with upgrades on flops like Alexis Sanchez surely required for them to have a realistic hope of achieving that.
Liverpool, meanwhile, could also benefit from more options up front if they are to close that most slender of gaps on Manchester City, with Pepe a useful alternative to the likes of Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah, who have all been involved in international tournaments this summer, potentially causing fatigue and a late return to action for their club.