Today we’ll talk about another talented winger – the most improved player in Ligue 1 this season, Nicolas Pepe.
Nicolas Pepe is a 23-year old professional football player who plays as a right winger for Lille OSC.
He started his career in lower the tiers of French football, before moving to Angers in 2013.
His professional debut came in November 2014 in a Ligue 2 game against Ajaccio. Pepe spent two seasons with Angers’ second team and in 2015 was loaned out to US Orleans, where he could play more games and have a better development.
When he returned to Angers, he became a first-team regular, making 33 Ligue 1 appearances in the 2016/17 campaign.
Pepe reached the Coupe de France final in his first full season with Angers and earned his first international cap in November 2016. The youngster was born in France but decided to play for the national team of Ivory Coast, due to his Ivorian descent.
He moved to Lille in June 2017 for a reported fee of £10m and immediately secured his place in the first team.
The 23-year old noted 13 goals and five assists in his first season with Les Dogues, helping the club to finish only one point above Toulouse and avoid relegation.
Pepe is even better in the current campaign. He has already scored 17 times in the French League and is joint second on the goalscorers’ list, only behind Kylian Mbappe.
The Ivorian has also provided eight assists for his team-mates, leading the club from last season’s 17th to the 2nd place in Ligue 1.
His amazing performances this season not only make him one of the hottest prospects in France but all across Europe as well.
Pepe is an extremely quick winger, who obviously possess excellent finishing ability. He already got the attention of the biggest European clubs, with Bayern Munich and Barcelona among the favourites for his signature.
— LOSC Lille EN (@LOSC_EN) September 15, 2018
“I am under contract until 2022. My idea is to end this season in Lille and then, why not, leave for somewhere in Europe. It would be beautiful.” – Nicolas Pepe said when he was asked about his future, via Sky Sports.
Lille’s only chance to retain the youngster at least for another season is probably by securing a Champions League football for the following campaign.
They are in a great position at the moment, being four points ahead of Lyon in the second place in Ligue 1. But even if they manage to qualify for the most competitive club competition, no one could say for sure that Nicolas Pepe will be a Lille player next season.
If Bayern, Barca or any other European giant comes knocking at the door, we don’t believe that the Ivorian would be able to reject the call.