Few would have expected that Nicolas Pepe would still be a Lille player in mid-July.
With 23 goals to his name last season, the Ivory Coast international exploded onto the world stage by firing Lille to second place in Ligue 1, Les Dogues going from a relegation battle to the Champions League in just 12 months.
But despite being linked frequently with some of the biggest clubs on the continent, Pepe is still at the Stade Pierre Mauroy. Though Lille are still acutely aware that it would be a minor miracle if the former Angers striker begins the 2019/20 season wearing their deep shade of red.
Speaking to RMC Sport last week, Lille’s president Gerard Lopez claimed that Liverpool had held talks with Pepe regarding a potential summer switch to Anfield.
And claims from The Telegraph that Everton were interested too suggested that a bloody battle of HBO-style proportions could be about to erupt on Merseyside. But maybe not.
Lille have made it clear that they won’t accept a pittance for one of the most exciting young forwards in world football. With the 2011 Ligue 1 champions demanding £59 million at the very least, the Liverpool Echo believes Everton are worried that they will be priced out.
The Toffees may no longer be operating on a shoestring budget with steel magnate Farhad Moshiri paying huge fees for the likes of Gylfi Sigurdsson and Jordan Pickford. But Pepe would still shatter the club’s transfer record by a cool £14 million.
Liverpool, meanwhile, have demonstrated that they are willing to break the bank if necessary, paying world record fees for both Alisson Becker and Virgil van Dijk in the last 18 months.
£59 million may be a little rich for Everton. But if Liverpool want to go one step further in the Premier League and defend their European crown, Pepe is one of the few players on the market today capable of taking them to the next level.
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