LIVERPOOL JOIN RACE TO SIGN PLAYER IDENTIFIED AS EDEN HAZARD’S REPLACEMENT

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Chelsea have identified Lille star Nicolas Pepe as a replacement for Eden Hazard, who could join Real Madrid this summer.

The Blues are willing to splash £70million on Pepe and are hoping a transfer ban on the club is overturned so a move for the Ivory Coast international can be completed.

According to Daily Mail, Premier League rivals Liverpool have joined the race to sign the 23-year-old.

The report claims Liverpool have stolen a march in the race for Pepe’s signature by asking Lille about his availability.

Chelsea are desperate to sign Pepe after his return of 20 goals and 14 assists in 36 appearances across all competitions this season. Only Kylian Mbappe has scored more Ligue 1 goals than Pepe this season.

His goalscoring form has also helped Lille up to second in the Ligue 1 standings and he is now on the transfer shortlist of major clubs in Europe.

Lille president Gerard Lopez recently admitted they will struggle to prevent him leaving this summer.

“Four or five players will be leaving this summer,” Lopez told Telefoot.

“All clubs are forced to balance their accounts except perhaps one. I would say yes, it is sure he (Pepe) will leave.

“He enters a price range that can no longer be paid. There is a career choice to make for him, I think he will have the choice.”

Meanwhile, former Chelsea defender Mario Melchiot believes it will be best Chelsea sold Eden Hazard this summer rather than keep him for another year.

“His future at the club is very simple,” Melchiot said on talkSPORT.

“This kid wants to play the best and wants to play with the best.

“The only doubt now comes to what is Chelsea’s next move with the transfer ban?

“It’s great being the best player on the team but you want to be playing amongst players that can help you succeed and bring you to the next level.

“I’m not saying the others aren’t good but are they good enough to keep him excited?

“That’s why Real Madrid is so interesting for him and it’s why he might have already made his mind up.

“As a fan, all along I want to keep Hazard. But as a business prospect, it wouldn’t be smart to keep hold of him.

“If you can get a lot of money for him and buy any other equivalent player or young star, you will go for that.

“You don’t want to let anyone walk out for free. We are talking about a player who, if you can get £100m for him, it would be great.”

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OTONY
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