Real Madrid are poised to lose their veteran defender Pepe after contract talks between the two parties have stalled, and have a ready-made replacement in teenager Jesus Vallejo.
Portuguese center-back Pepe is the latest in a long line of top players linked with a move to the noveau riche Chinese Super League. Reports have emerged recently that Hebei Fortune, who are managed by former Real Madrid manager Manuel Pellegrini, are keen on the central defender.
Pepe may be fresh off winning the European Championship with Portugal, but the 33-year-old isn’t getting any younger. A move to China would probably be a tempting offer for him, and Real Madrid wouldn’t mind letting him go with Pepe in the last year of his current contract.
In fact, Madrid based publication Marca claim that Los Blancos have already lined up a replacement for Pepe from within their own ranks. The report states that Real have already made the decision to promote teenager Jesus Vallejo to the first team when Pepe leaves.
Real already have their first choice central defence partnership sorted, with Frenchman Raphael Varane set to partner captain Sergio Ramos. According to the report, 19-year-old Vallejo will return from his loan spell at Eintracht Frankfurt and immediately slot into the second-choice role.
The loss of Pepe will not be the body blow to Real Madrid that it could have been just a few seasons ago. Los Blancos now have a primed and ready replacement in Frenchman Raphael Varane, who they managed to hold on to this summer despite interest from Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United.
The apparent identification of 19-year-old Vallejo isn’t quite as surprising given the way manager Zinedine Zidane has been going about business at the Bernabeu.
The French icon has brought up many players from the youth ranks including Lucas Vasquez, Marco Asensio and Casemiro. They all played under Zidane for Real Madrid Castilla, and the Frenchman was one of the minds behind the signing of Jesus Vallejo from Real Zaragoza in 2015.
The 19-year-old Spaniard is currently gathering valuable experience in the Bundesliga with Frankfurt, and if reports are to be believed, will soon slot in to the Real Madrid first team alongside a whole new crop of promising talents being nurtured by Zizou.