Arsenal sign Lille winger Nicolas Pepe for club record fee

Arsenal announced the signing of winger Nicolas Pepe from French side Lille on Thursday for a club-record fee reported to be 72 million British pounds (87 million U.S. dollars).

The deal for the 24-year-old Cote d'Ivoire international eclipses the 56 million British pounds spent on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in January 2018 as the Gunners add another attacking option to their ranks.

Pepe becomes the most expensive African player ever and the fourth most expensive signing in Premier League history after Manchester United pair Paul Pogba (89 million British pounds) and Romelu Lukaku (75 million British pounds) and Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk (75 million British pounds).

The forward, who will wear the number 19 shirt, will add firepower to an Arsenal attack that saw Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette score 50 goals between them in all competitions last season.

Arsenal manager Unai Emery said: "Nicolas is a highly rated and talented winger who was wanted by many of the top teams in Europe.

"Signing a top-class winger has been one of our key objectives in this transfer window and I'm delighted he's joining.

"He will add pace, power and creativity, with the aim of bringing more goals to our team."

Who is the new signing Nicolas Pepe?

Securing the flamboyant 24-year-old is an impressive coup for Arsenal given Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United and Napoli were reportedly interested in his signature.

Pepe's record switch to the Premier League comes after a breakthrough season with Lille that saw him named in the Ligue 1 Team of the Year.

Pepe scored 22 Ligue 1 goals last season and he was behind only PSG's Kylian Mbappe in the Ligue 1 scoring charts as Lille finished second to qualify for the Champions League.

Pepe was one of only two players with 20-plus goals and 10-plus assists in the top five European Leagues last season, alongside Barcelona's Lionel Messi.

"Being here is very emotional because it has not been easy for me," he said in an interview on Arsenal's website, describing himself as quick and a good finisher.

"I have come a long way and struggled a lot and so signing for this great club is a big reward."

Arsenal Director of Football Edu (R) poses with new signing Nicolas Pepe (L) at London Colney in St. Albans, England, July 31, 2019. /VCG Photo

Arsenal Director of Football Edu (R) poses with new signing Nicolas Pepe (L) at London Colney in St. Albans, England, July 31, 2019. /VCG Photo

Lethal weapon

Arriving at one of the Premier League's top clubs must seem like a dream come true for France-born Pepe after his long journey to the big time.

Pepe said he was looking forward to playing alongside Lacazette, Aubameyang and Mesut Ozil.

"Of course, these are the players who sprang to mind because I used to watch them when I was at Lille," he said.

"Also, Lacazette used to play for Lyon and so I have had the opportunity to play against him and it will be an honor to play alongside him."

The signing of Pepe follows the arrivals of forward Gabriel Martinelli, the season-long loan of Real Madrid midfielder Dani Ceballos and the transfer of defender William Saliba – who will spend the 2019/20 campaign back on loan at St. Etienne.

Arsenal finished a disappointing fifth in the Premier League in Emery's first season in charge, missing out on Champions League qualification for the third year in a row.

Pepe's blistering pace became a lethal weapon and his skill earned comparisons to Belgian star Eden Hazard, who also made his name at Lille.

And Lille manager Christophe Galtier has no doubts Pepe will prove a big hit at Arsenal as the north London club try to return to the Champions League themselves.

"He amazes me, he amazes us," Galtier said in February, "He's certain to become a world-class player because he knows how to do everything."

Their first match of the Premier League campaign is away at Newcastle on August 11. Now Arsenal's new prize possession has the chance to shine in the spotlight at the Emirates Stadium.

Source(s): AFP