There was once a time Liverpool reportedly wanted Nicholas Pepe
Photo by John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

There was once a time Liverpool reportedly wanted Nicholas Pepe

It feels as if every week opposes another cause to celebrate the meticulous footballing mind that is sporting director Michael Edwards.

Liverpool’s transfer record was made to look even more formidable following Diogo Jota’s latest goalscoring excursions that saw him hammer home his eighth Liverpool goal since signing from Wolves during the 3-0 win against Leicester.

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The Portugal international is the latest example of a sustained transfer model that has seen the successful acquisitions in recent seasons of some of the world’s best players including Virgil van Dijk, Alisson Becker, Sadio Mane, Fabinho, Mohamed Salah, and Thiago Alcantara.

Jota was extensively scouted over a sustained period before Liverpool made their interest known. A materialised move for the 23-year-old took supporters by surprise and within 48 hours of the initial reported interest, a £45 million fee had been agreed.

While Jota still has some way to go before establishing himself as world-class, there is the sense that within weeks of his confirmed transfer, he is already one of the club’s great shrewd purchases of the modern era similarly to when Liverpool struck deals on the cheap to sign Andy Robertson, Georginio Wijnaldum, James Milner and Joel Matip.

However, while Edwards has rightly been lauded for his incomings in recent seasons, it is his ability to avoid certain players that perfectly underlines his genius.

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Irreplaceable Liverpool figure

While Jota is already being hailed as arguably the signing of the summer, it is worth reflecting that not too long ago, there was a time when Liverpool were being touted with a move for Nicholas Pepe.

The 25-year-old Arsenal star was the breakout star of Ligue 1 during 2018/19, scoring 23 goals for Lille, establishing himself as one of the brightest young talents on the planet.

Following their status as recently crowned Kings of Europe, Liverpool were said to be one of the front-runners to land the impressive Ivory Coast international.

Pepe was contiuisly linked with an Anfield switch, yet there was no tangible evidence to suggest that Liverpool themselves were at all interested in the player.

As it turned out, Liverpool’s fondness for Pepe was unwarranted forcing Edwards to reach out to Lille manager Christophe Galtier to inform him that he did not know where these reports were coming from and that the Reds had zero interest in the forward.

As a result, Pepe inevitably moved to Arsenal in a £72 million [BBC] deal and has so far struggled to vindicate why the Gunners paid such an eye-watering fee to land the French-born winger.

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Last season he clocked up eight goals in total – a feat Jota has already matched in his opening 12 matches for Liverpool despite costing almost half of what Arsenal were forced to pay for Pepe.

His latest performance against Leeds United perhaps epitomised Pepe’s early struggles after he was shown a straight red card for a headbutt on Ezgjan Alioski, a moment-of-madness which could have serious repercussions to his long-term Arsenal prospects.

It is crazy to think there was a time when Pepe was considered one of the best young players in Europe while Jota had only completed his first season in English top-flight football.

The contrast in quality between the two players at this time of writing is quite stark.

There is no doubt that Pepe has the quality to become a top-player for Arsenal, but off the early evidence, it looks like quite the bullet dodge from Liverpool’s and particular Edwards’ part.

The Reds haven’t looked back since and it is just another example of why Edwards’ judgement remains unquestionable in the transfer market.

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