Arsenal ready to sign Pepe for record fee

Lille winger Nicolas Pepe is also wanted by top clubs like Bayern Munich, Manchester United and Napoli after notching 22 goals and 11 assists in Ligue 1 last season.
Lille winger Nicolas Pepe is also wanted by top clubs like Bayern Munich, Manchester United and Napoli after notching 22 goals and 11 assists in Ligue 1 last season. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Arsenal fans had been resigned to a summer of relative inactivity, given the Premier League club's widely reported transfer war chest of just £40 million (S$67.8 million), putting big-name signings out of reach.

But, two days after sealing the season-long loan move for Spain midfielder Dani Ceballos from Real Madrid and France Under-20 defender William Saliba for a reported £27 million, the Gunners look poised to smash their transfer record after agreeing an €80 million (S$121.9 million) deal for Lille winger Nicolas Pepe yesterday.

The highly sought-after Ivory Coast international had been wanted by Bayern Munich, Napoli and Manchester United after his exploits in Ligue 1 last season.

He scored 22 goals in the French league, second only to Paris Saint-Germain forward Kylian Mbappe (33), and had 11 assists. He was also part of the Elephants' squad that made it to the quarter-finals of the recent Africa Cup of Nations, before bowing out to eventual winners Algeria 4-3 on penalties.

The signing would break the club record of £56 million that Arsenal paid to land Gabon forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Borussia Dortmund in January last year.

It would also end any further interest in Crystal Palace forward Wilfried Zaha, who was the subject of a rejected £40 million bid earlier this month, with the Eagles valuing the Ivorian at around £80 million.

According to the BBC, the five-year deal will be paid by instalments and is expected to be done by today or tomorrow.

The Gunners' managing director Vinai Venkatesham also suggested their transfer business was not done yet, with the move for Celtic defender Kieran Tierney close to completion.

He told British daily The Metro: "It is true our funds are more limited after three Europa League years but the budget isn't £40 million.

"We have the budget to make a difference... there is a huge amount of misinformation out there in the market."

Separately, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has played down suggestions that the English champions, who have already brought in Spain midfielder Rodri from Atletico Madrid for £60 million, would make further signings as the team are "good enough".

REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 28, 2019, with the headline 'Arsenal ready to sign Pepe for record fee'. Print Edition | Subscribe