Shock suitor to win Pepe race as swap deal convinces Lille to sell

Date published: Thursday 18th July 2019 1:56 - James Marshment

Napoli have emerged as surprise frontrunners to win the race to sign in-demand forward Nicolas Pepe after the offer of a player trade tipped the balance in their favour.

The Ivory Coast forward is one of European football’s hottest properties after scoring 22 goals in Ligue 1 last season – a mark only bettered by PSG’s Kylian Mbappe.

It has been suggested recently that Pepe favours a move to either Liverpool or Serie A giants Inter Milan.

The likes of Bayern Munich, Manchester United, Manchester City – and most recently Arsenal – have all been mentioned as suitors to the player, who also impressed during the African Cup of Nations.

But reports in the Italian media claim it is Napoli who are best placed to win the race for his signature, having launched a formal approach.

According to il Corriere dello Sport, the Serie A giants have made a €60m offer with Lille target Adam Ounas also offered as part of the deal.

Ounas himself has caught the eye for Algeria during AFCON and had reportedly emerged as Lille’s No 1 target to replace the outgoing Pepe.

And the likely failure to convince James Rodriguez to move to Italy – the Colombian now looks likely to stay in Spain by joining Atletico Madrid – has convinced Carlo Ancelotti’s side to make their move.

With Ounas valued at around the €20m mark, the deal for Pepe is likely to set Napoli back an eye-watering €80m in total.


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