Lille attacker Nicolas Pepe has the capability to play for Real Madrid, according to club-mate Jose Fonte.
The Euro 2016 winner has watched as the Ivory Coast international winger has made a storming start to the Ligue 1 season, scoring seven times in 10 outings and setting up six more as LOSC have unexpectedly moved to second in the league behind PSG.
His outstanding form has seen him linked with a plethora of Europe’s top clubs, including the likes of Arsenal and Barcelona, yet Fonte believes the 23-year-old could be a useful solution to the scoring problems at the Bernabeu.
“He can reach the highest level,” the centre-back told RMC. “He could play for a Real Madrid, a Barcelona – any team.
“But he has to continue to want to learn, to have his feet on the ground, continue to work and progress every day. That’s the only way he can reach and maintain a high standard of play. But it’s clear he’s got the talent.”
Fonte, who was a team-mate of former Real Madrid ace Cristiano Ronaldo as Portugal won the European Championship two years ago, pinpointed the areas in which he has to improve.
“He must continue to improve certain aspects of his game, such as his defensive work and tactical side, because going forward he’s very strong. But there’s another, defensive, aspect of the game.
“We work with Nicolas, coach Christophe Galtier most of all, to get him into the right defensive positions. If he gets into the right place defensively, that can help the transition into attack. These are the little things that will get him to the very top, and that where he has to be in two or three years.”
Lille’s financial issues mean that he could be sold in January, and after an explosive beginning to the campaign there is unlikely to be any shortage of interest.