The rise and rise of Nicolas Pepe: A look at the Liverpool target’s transformation

A sixth major European Cup was won.

Their Premier League title race almost successful but for just two points.

The PFA Player of the Year and Ballon d’Or favourite in their ranks, 2 Golden Boot winners in attack and the owner of the Golden Glove in between the sticks.

Do Liverpool even need to spend? Yes.

You can relive Liverpool’s Champions League celebrations in glorious 2D thanks to the guys at 442oons in the video below…

All of the above is impressive, but if the Reds are to get on back-to-back title winners Manchester City’s level, they must strengthen their side even when it doesn’t seem necessary – just look at City’s £60m deal for Riyad Mahrez after becoming centurions.

A number of names have been linked to Liverpool, but few more frequently than Lille forward Nicolas Pepe.

Trusty RMC Sport journalist Mohamed Bouhafsi, who broke the news of Fabinho’s arrival last year, recently revealed that the Champions League winners are ‘well placed’ to land the Ivorian, whilst La Gazzetta dello Sport reporter Nicolo Schira believes that an €80m offer has been made (£71.4m). The idea of a bid being on the table already has been backed up by Le10Sport.

But just where has the Ivorian hotshot come from having burst out from mere obscurity just a few years ago?

As you can see from the graph above, Pepe’s career has gone from strength to strength with every season he has played – the one backwards step in terms of goals was when he made the step up to the top-flight, Ligue 1.

Pepe didn’t manage to score a goal in his first season as a professional despite making eight appearances.

However, it didn’t take long for him to find his feet the following term.

Seven goals in 30 appearances were the numbers to Pepe’s name in 2015/16 whilst on loan from Angers to US Orleans, and you could visibly see that the versatile forward was growing in confidence with every game he played.

His parent club took interest and integrated him into the first-team for the start of the 2016/17 Ligue 1 campaign, where Pepe slowly grew into top-flight football; his three goals in 39 games prove that the then 21-year-old star wasn’t an instant success.

However, that one campaign was all he needed.

The dangerous wide man, who can also play centrally, truly burst onto the scene in 2017/18, netting 14 goals in 38 appearances in what was his first season for Lille after completing a €10m move away from Angers.

Perhaps it was the change in environment and the fact that he had transferred to a bigger club that made Pepe really knuckle down and focus on his football.

Whatever was in the water at Lille, it was certainly having a good effect on him.

His most recent season to date, the 2018/19 campaign, was where Pepe caught the attention of Europe’s top clubs.

He struck an eye-catching 22 goals and set up 12 more as he helped Lille to an astonishing 2nd-place finish and a spot in the Champions League for next term.

It goes without saying that this is a player who is improving year after year; the transformation from a player who scored seven goals in Ligue 2 during the 2015/16 season has been incredible.

So just imagine what the 2019/20 campaign has in store for the Liverpool target, whether that’s spent at Anfield or somewhere else, and what levels his dramatic rise could reach next.

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