One of American striker Ricardo Pepi’s biggest challenges since arriving in Germany has been convincing people why he chose to join relegation-threatened Augsburg.
Pepi, 19, who was arguably MLS’s brightest prospect after scoring 13 goals for FC Dallas last season, surprised many in early January when he moved to Augsburg, a relatively unspectacular club that has mostly finished in the bottom half of the Bundesliga since first being promoted in 2011.
This season is proving to be another chore for the Bavarian club. Markus Weinzierl’s side have won just one of their last eight league games and currently sit in the relegation playoff spot with 11 games remaining.
“In life you took risks, and it was a risk I took so that I could come to Augsburg and be able to help the team,” Pepi told reporters in an online video call this week. .
The player was set to join Volkswagen-backed Wolfsburg, who qualified for the Champions League last season, while Liverpool and Manchester United are also said to be interested. Some thought Bayern Munich might have been an option due to the Bavarian powerhouse’s partnership with FC Dallas.
But Pepi landed Augsburg, who broke their transfer record to sign the then 18-year-old for more than 13 million euros ($14.8 million) plus potential additions, the highest fee for a transfer of a local American player from MLS. .
Many of the questions Pepi faced on the call were about the reasons behind his switch.
”Its a question of confidence. Augsburg obviously they made the big transfer because they have faith in me and they wanted me to come to the team, and obviously I had to take that into consideration,” said Pepi, who said other clubs had expressed interest without reaching any agreement. with FC Dallas.
“I was planning to stay in MLS for about a year or two. But out of nowhere Augsburg spoke to my agent, spoke to FC Dallas and decided to make an offer,” Pepi said. called and he said to me: ‘Hey, what do you think of Augsburg, like FC Augsburg?’ And I was like, ‘You know what? They’re a great team.” Pepi said he and his agent spoke about the risks involved, especially in a World Cup year — the striker has three goals in nine appearances for the United States — and he also discussed the transfer with his parents.
”We all agreed that Augsburg was going to be a great opportunity for me and that’s the next step. We are talking about the next stage of my career. We felt that the Bundesliga was definitely a step I wanted to take,’ Pepi said.
He said he spoke with his national teammates Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie and Gio Reyna about their experiences in Germany, and they convinced him that the Bundesliga was ideal for his development.
”It’s just faster. Everything is more dynamic, everything is more intense, in every game, in every training,” said Pepi. “In the United States, I remember we had sessions where they were a little lighter because it would be game day in two days. But here, every day, we train intensely and we are always ready to go. So far, the transition has been difficult. Pepi is yet to score in five league games – one draw and four defeats. But he is not worried about his scoring drought.
“I came to this team for a reason and it’s for my development and obviously it was a big transfer,” Pepi said. “But now, you know, being in the team, I feel more comfortable with each passing week. So to be patient, but also really looking forward to scoring my first goal.” Augsburg will then host the unpredictable Borussia Dortmund on Sunday Second-placed Dortmund routed Borussia Mönchengladbach last weekend but are also capable of losing 5-2 at home to Bayer Leverkusen, as they lost 4-2 at home to Rangers in the Europa League last week Dortmund were due to play the second leg in Glasgow on Thursday.
“My family is going to be in town, so it’s going to be a bit different,” Pepi said of visiting Dortmund on Sunday. “So hopefully I can get something.”
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