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Chelsea join queue for Lille sensation Nicolas Pépé as potential Hazard replacement — report

Welcome to Pépé fever

FC Porto v Lille - Algarve Cup Photo by Carlos Rodrigues/Getty Images

In the one-team league that is Ligue 1 in France, anytime Paris Saint-Germain don’t win, it’s big news. When they lose, it’s front page news. And when they lose 5-1 (even if they play the majority of the game with ten men), it’s earth-shattering, to say the least.

But that is precisely what happened this weekend, as the juggernauts made the short journey north to Eden Hazard’s old haunts, to play the team in second place, and had to tuck tail and run on home after conceding five for the first time in almost two decades. (Of course, PSG have a 17-point lead, so that title is not really in doubt.)

The undoubted star of the occasion, just as he’s been all season for Lille OSC was a certain Nicolas Pépé, who’s perhaps their most coveted player since Eden Hazard himself 7-8 years ago.

With his goal and two assists against PSG, Pépé has now directly contributed to 30 goals (19 goals and 11 assists) in the French league this season. Only generational talent Kylian Mbappé, with 34 direct contributions (27 goals and 7 assists), has better numbers.

Pépé isn’t a one-season wonder either. He had gotten very good numbers in his debut season at Lille, too, recording 13 goals and 4 assists in 36 Ligue 1 matches last term. Now, on the heels of his true breakout season, it’s accepted that he’s set to leave this summer.

“Sure [he’s going to leave]. He’s going to get into a range of prices, wages, etc. that LOSC will not be able to pay anymore.

“So it’s clear that there’s a career choice for him too, after that, where will he go? We’ll see. We will not talk about a transfer until about mid-May. I think he’ll have a choice, we’ll see.”

-Gérard López; source: Téléfoot via Google Translate

Lille owner Gérard López expects to be probably compensated of course.

Pépé’s price tag has already reached figures as high as €80 million, with reported interest from Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Arsenal, Manchester United and even Paris Saint-Germain themselves. But now, according to Téléfoot, Chelsea have also entered the “sweepstakes”, with the Blues looking at Pépé to replace the Real Madrid-bound Eden Hazard. It’d be quite fitting, in a circle-of-football-life sort of way.

Any Chelsea interest is dependent on our transfer appeal, it goes without saying, but as far as ways to spent the Eden Hazard cash, there could certainly be worse ways than Pépé...

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