Ricardo Pepi (18) of FC Dallas and the USMNT has submitted a transfer request according to Chris Smith of 90min.com. Although the timing comes as a bit of shock for the club, the homegrown starlet was always destined for Europe. Fc Dallas are reported to wish to keep the player until after the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, where they feel his value will peak. However, With the player’s desire to make the jump across the Atlantic sooner rather than later this may prove to be a bridge too far. Pepi leads the 2nd from bottom Texas club in scoring this season with 13 goals and 2 assists in 27 appearances.
Let’s take a look at the interested clubs and competition within potential suitor’s squads:
VFL Wolfsburg (Germany)
According to Roger Gonzalez of CBS Sports, Ricardo Pepi has already agreed personal terms with the 6th placed Bundesliga side. This does not mean a transfer is imminent, however, as the two clubs still need to agree on a transfer fee. The German side’s current leading scorer is Dutch forward Wout Weghorst, scoring 3 in 8 appearances on the season. Wolfsburg have generally played with a single striker meaning minutes may be harder to come by. Compatriot and USMNT teammate John Brooks plays for the side and could help ease the transition between leagues.
Bayern Munich (Germany)
In 2018, Bayern Munich and FC Dallas entered into a player development partnership. The partnership allows youth academy players from both clubs the opportunity to train at the other’s facilities for 10 days every summer. Pepi made the trip in the summer of 2019, and the Bavarian club have reportedly been tracking him since. Former Fc Dallas and USMNT teammate Chris Richards made a perman to Bayern in 2019 off the back of the player agreement. Unfortunately, Richards has found his appearances limited at Bayern and has consequently left on loan for 2 season straight. I fear a similar fate could face Pepi should he joins. Lastly, record goalscorer Robert Lewandowski leads the line for the league leaders, and he only appears to be getting better with age.
Borussia Dortmund (Germany)
Dortmund has a good track record of developing American players. Previously with Pulisic, and currently with Reyna, the German club has paved the path for the talented American players into Europe. Unfortunately, there is a problem with Ricardo Pepi’s situation. A Certain Erling Haaland occupies the striker position at Dortmund. Since joining, the Norweigan phenom scored 49 goals in 49 appearances, making him an immovable object from the starting 11. Fortunately, the striker has a much publicized release clause, active June 2022. Joining in January to spend some time learning off a generational talent like Haaland might benefit Ricardo Pepi Greatly. The Bundesliga side currently sit 2nd in the league.
Sampdoria sit in 17th place in Serie A, just out of the relegation zone on goal difference. 34 year old winger Antonio Candreva leads the team in scoring with 3 goals. However, 38 year old Fabio Quagliarella consistently leads the line. Needless to say it appears the Italian club could use an injection of youth into their attack. Sampdoria has Danish midfielder Mikkel Damsgaard on the books, who garnished attention after scoring goals like this at Euro 2020. With USMNT teammate Gianluca Busio showing that MLS Talent can cut in the Italian league, Pepi could thrive moving to a club where he receives more game time. Sampdoria have reportedly made a $9 million bid for the striker.
With a rich history of developing technical players, Ajax could prove a great destination for Pepi. Currently top of the dutch league and perpetual Champions League entrants, Pepi would have the chance to develop from the coaches who led Sergino Dest through his youth development, while simultaneously getting the chance to test himself against the finest players in Europe. Ajax’s striker and current leading scorer Sebastian Haller (11 goals in 11 appearances) is rumored to be Dortmund’s chosen replacement for Haaland. If Haller leaves, Pepi could find himself leading the line in a Champions League match very soon.
Ricardo Pepi’s time in MLS is up. With the striker set on a January transfer, things will only pick up speed from here. Expect a few bumps in the road as FC Dallas will certainly look to maximize the fee. As a fan of U.S. soccer all I ask is he find home that gives him game time to develop.
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