Manchester United must finish in the top four to land £50 million rated Lille winger Nicolas Pepe, who is also a target for Premier League rivals Arsenal.
According to a report by Daily Mirror, who have quoted recent comments from Lille manager Christophe Galtier, Nicolas Pepe will only leave the Ligue 1 club for a side playing Champions League football next season. The Ivory Coast international is being pursued by Premier League rivals Arsenal and Manchester United.
Nicolas Pepe joined Lille from Angers in the summer of 2017, and in nearly two years since then, he has gone on to become one of the very best on show in Ligue 1. The fiery winger has come into his own in the current campaign in particular, with a stunning tally of 17 goals and 11 assists in 28 appearances across all competitions.
The player’s exploits have invariably resulted in several big name clubs casting admiring glances towards him. As per the report, among those leading the race to sign him are Manchester United and Arsenal, while Barcelona have also been linked with the 23-year-old recently.
At Manchester United, there is a long standing problem of the lack of a natural right winger, with just about every forward in the first-team squad deployed on the flank this season. Nicolas Pepe is thus, a viable target for the Red Devils, who can potentially have a complete attacking unit by signing the Ivorian.
Arsenal, on the other hand, do not have a single natural winger, for either flank, with several players being played out of position to fill the wide areas. As a result, the widespread links with Nicolas Pepe make sense for the Gunners, who can reinforce the right wing by signing the 23-year-old.
But, in order to secure his services, Manchester United and Arsenal will have to secure a place in the Premier League top four, with Lille manager Christophe Galtier iterating that the player will only leave for a club playing Champions League football next season.
“He has to go to a Champions League club. In my opinion, an intermediate step is not necessary [for him] to go as high as possible. I see him as good with a team that plays all in red and likes to put wingers on the side of their weaker feet.”
As things stand, only one of Manchester United and Arsenal will be in the running to sign Nicolas Pepe, with the two clubs battling Chelsea for the fourth spot on the Premier League table. Third placed Tottenham are seven points ahead of their North London rivals, with United a further point adrift.
But, it remains to be seen how things pan out in the rest of the season. For now, it looks Lille are ready to part ways with Nicolas Pepe, who will cost around £50 million as per the report. It also remains to be seen if both clubs are willing to meet Lille’s valuation of the 23-year-old, and if he makes his way to the Premier League in the summer.