LIVERPOOL have emerged as shock favourites to sign Lille ace Nicolas Pepe in a huge blow to Arsenal's summer transfer plans, according to reports in France.
The Ivorian had also been eyed by Chelsea as their No 1 target to replace Eden Hazard but it is Jurgen Klopp's side that have stolen a march on their Premier League rivals.
Getty – Contributor1 Nicolas Pepe has been one of Ligue 1's breakout stars this season
It was recently revealed that the Reds had made contact with Lille about a potential transfer, with the French club demanding a fee of at least £69million.
Undeterred, Liverpool "intend to position themselves for Pepe in the coming weeks" after Inter Milan submitted a written offer for his signature, according to L'Equipe.
The 23-year-old has netted a staggering 19 goals and 13 assists this season, including a double in the 5-1 hammering of champions Paris Saint-Germain last week.
Pepe has lit up Ligue 1 this year and is second in the scoring charts to Real Madrid target Kylian Mbappe, resigning Lille to the fact they can't keep their prized asset.
It is sure Pepe will leave. He enters a price range that can no longer be paid.
Lille President Gerard Lopez
President Gerard Lopez told Telefoot: "Four or five players will be leaving this summer.
“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, Liverpool are also ready to trigger Bayer Leverkusen star Julian Brandt's release clause, according to Sport Bild.
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The 22-year-old was a target for Jurgen Klopp in 2017 but opted to stay in Germany and sign a new deal at the BayArena until 2021.
He has racked up seven goals and 14 assists this season but is understood to have a cheap £21.5m release clause if Bayer fail to qualify for the Champions League.
They are currently seventh in the Bundesliga, five points adrift of Eintracht Frankfurt in fourth, with four games of the current campaign remaining.