Ricardo Pepi
USMNT breakout star Ricardo Pepi has reportedly asked for a transfer from FC Dallas, with multiple European suitors waiting in the wings. (Photo Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)

Ranking the Reported Suitors of USMNT Breakout Star Ricardo Pepi

USMNT breakout star Ricardo Pepi has reportedly submitted a transfer request to FC Dallas, per Chris Smith of 90min.com. The 18-year-old striker is rumored to want a move to Europe now, with his club’s hope of selling him after the 2022 World Cup seemingly extinguished.

Pepi has answered the calls surrounding the United States’ striker conundrum, scoring three goals in four international appearances. He has also scored 13 goals in 27 matches for FC Dallas, the club he’s called home since he was 13 years old.

The rumors that the El Paso native may be ready for a move across the pond have some notable European giants locked in on his transfer saga. However, it may be all for naught, as the same report indicates that Pepi has agreed to personal terms with Bundesliga club Wolfsburg. But in the world of sports, personal terms don’t mean a thing until pen meets paper, so have a hypothetical transfer dance with me.

The List of Suitors: Wolfsburg, Ajax, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Inter Milan and Liverpool

Initial reaction: one of these is not like the others. A move to Wolfsburg makes perfect, practical sense for an 18-year-old jumping from M.L.S. to one of Europe’s top five leagues. He’ll be able to compete right away on a team that can challenge for European football. Ajax has reportedly met with Pepi’s agents and the Amsterdam club is one of, if not the best, at molding the next generation of football’s stars. And then there’s the list of past Champions League winners all intrigued by a Pepi transfer: Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Inter Milan and Liverpool. Serie A side Sampdoria submitted an €8 million bid to FC Dallas for Pepi’s services, but it was promptly denied, with the latter club expecting a deal somewhere in the range of $12-15 million. Let’s get into how an arrival at each European side impacts the budding Texan star.

1. Wolfsburg: A modest and humble beginning

No doubt Ricardo Pepi envisions a future filled with both domestic and European success at the club level, and maybe that’s in a Bayern or Liverpool shirt, but a move to Wolfsburg right now allows him to dip his toes in the water without jumping in head first. The club is also competing in the Champions League, currently sitting one point behind second-place Sevilla with three games to go in group play. If the German side can qualify for the knockout stage, then Pepi could be playing under the bright lights in London, Madrid and more after the January transfer window. Wolfsburg and USMNT central defender John Brooks could also aid in the transition process from the States to Europe.

2. Ajax: The place where dreams become reality

Okay so maybe that subheading is a bit cheesy, but it’s not false. Ajax is the club where youth starlets go to announce themselves on the international stage, before eventually heading off to greener pastures in the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A or Bundesliga. Just look at Frenkie de Jong, Christian Eriksen, Matthijs de Ligt and more. The Eredivisie is a great league to get acquainted with European football, plus the prospect of either Champions League or Europa League competition should have any young player drooling at the mouth.

T3. Bayern Munich: You get to play with Robert Lewandowski

Need I really say more? This route likely involves a transfer to Bayern where Pepi will sit on the bench, making a few cameo appearances in blowout Bundesliga or Champions League matches and maybe some good minutes in DFB Pokal. He’s still young, so coming into a side like Bayern and earning minutes will be nearly impossible. But you will get to train and learn from one of the world’s best strikers in Robert Lewandowski. Plus, you’ll play alongside Thomas Müller, Serge Gnabry and Leroy Sané. Pepi would be a good investment piece for the German giants and they would probably send him on loan to a mid-tier Bundesliga side in the following season – i.e. what the club has done with fellow American starlet Chris Richards.

T3. Borussia Dortmund: The guy who replaces Erling Haaland

What an undertaking this is. Sure, Pepi is really good and shows loads of upside, but it’s hard to replace a guy who’s scored 49 goals in 49 appearances. Haaland will likely be leaving Germany this summer for any number of Europe’s elite, including Manchester City, Chelsea and Barcelona, among others. The Norwegian’s exit would leave a hole at the No. 9 position that would need to be filled. I wouldn’t be shocked if Dortmund went out and bought both Pepi and a more veteran striker, with the club inclined to rotate the pair. Similar to Bayern, Dortmund would view Pepi as an experiment with low risk for the cost and loads of upside. Plus, he could form an even better relationship with fellow USMNT star Gio Reyna.

T3. Inter Milan: The No. 9 to replace Romelu Lukaku

In the same sense that he’s replacing a world-class striker at Dortmund, Ricardo Pepi would be tasked with the occasion at Inter Milan too. Belgian forward Romelu Lukaku left the Serie A side for defending Champions League winners Chelsea this summer. The club has since shuffled Edin Dzeko and Alexis Sanchez at the forward position alongside Lautaro Martinez. Like the other big clubs on this list, Pepi would be a project for manager Simone Inzaghi to develop, while the FC Dallas star could learn from one of the most prolific and underrated goal scorers of this generation in Dzeko.

T3. Liverpool: Salah and Mane and Pepi? Oh my

This move is a bit more intriguing because Liverpool does not play with a traditional No. 9, the position Pepi currently occupies. Instead, both Mo Salah – the best player in the world at the moment – and Sadio Mane tuck inside as inverted wingers with either Diogo Jota or Roberto Firmino occupying a central role in the front three. It would be an extremely congested attacking front for Pepi to break into. However, Liverpool has done little to nothing to improve their attacking depth, and with Salah and Mane potentially missing 6-8 games due to the Africa Cup of Nations in the winter, Pepi would be a player worth considering in the January transfer window.

With all the suitors outlined, the reality that FC Dallas can simply refuse a transfer in the upcoming window remains. I doubt that the Texas club does that though, with Pepi prepared to join the likes of Weston McKennie and Chris Richards as FC Dallas products turned European regulars.

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