MLS wonderkid Ricardo Pepi has been linked with a transfer to Manchester United and Liverpool in recent months after forcing his way into the United States XI, but now Atlético Madrid are also keen on the 18-year-old
Pepi, who is being viewed in his homeland as the US’ No.9 for the next decade, has been linked with United and Liverpool for a number of months and a number of European scouts having been to see him in action.
The two Premier League rivals now face an even bigger transfer battle for one of MLS’ hottest properties, with Dallas said to be demanding a cool £7.5million to sell their young star, plus potential add-ons.
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Whichever club snaps him up, they will be getting a teenager who boasts three goals in just six international caps, following a war for his allegiance between the US and Mexico.
Pepi was born in El Paso, Texas, to Mexican parents, who raised him to support El Tri.
But having spent time in both nations’ youth setups, he slowing gravitated towards the US and appeared at the U-17 World Cup in 2019, before finally making his decision this summer.
A slow start to life in MLS saw him net only three times in his first 26 domestic appearances but Pepi took it up a notch during the 2021 term. His hat-trick against LA Galaxy in July made headlines, leading to him receiving his first call-up for Gregg Berhalter ‘s USA in September.
On his debut for the Stars and Stripes, Pepi scored once and assisted twice during a victory over Honduras as well as creating four chances, producing an all-round electric display.
In October, he again staked his claim by scoring both goals as Berhalter’s men beat Jamaica 2-0.
Pepi also helped the US defeat Mexico 2-0 in a World Cup qualifier last month as they look to book their place in Qatar.
“What I see from Ricardo is a very typical No. 9 mould of deadly in the penalty box,” Berhalter told U.S. Soccer last month.
“Good off the ball movement, good linkup play and he just doesn’t need a lot to score goals. That’s a real quality of a good No. 9. His understanding of the game is very good.
“His [recognition of] moments when to drop down and connect play is excellent. So he has a lot of good attributes and for him to be 18 years old, man, is really impressive.”
Pepi meanwhile has revealed that one of his “dream” clubs do play in the Premier League… but it’s neither United or Liverpool.
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“It would be good for both my family and me to play in Europe,” he said in October. “I think now is the time to do that.
“We still have six or seven games to play with FC Dallas. And if the chance to go to Europe come by, that would be good.
“But the Dutch league has a lot of potential and is beneficial for young players. There is a lot of interest.”