Arsenal have completed the signing of Nicolas Pepe from Lille for a club-record fee.
The 24-year-old Ivory Coast international has joined the Gunners for an undisclosed fee believed to be worth £72million, which is expected to be paid in instalments.
Pepe’s move eclipses the £55million spent on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in January 2018 as Arsenal add another attacking option to their ranks.
Arsenal confirmed the paperwork for the move, which is “subject to the completion of regulatory processes” had been finalised on Thursday, and Pepe would wear the number 19 shirt. The length of the deal was not announced, but is believed to be for five years.
Gunners head coach 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.”
Pepe scored 22 Ligue 1 goals last season and was linked with a host of clubs over the summer including Manchester United and Napoli.
Arsenal emerged late last week as the somewhat surprising front-runners and have now sealed the former Angers player’s services.
PA understands Arsenal’s analysis team pinpointed the need for more pace and skill in attack as a way of improving their form away from home.
Pepe said in an interview with Arsenal Media: “Being here is very emotional because it has not been easy for me.
“I have come a long way and struggled a lot and so signing for this great club is a big reward.”
Asked how he would describe his playing style, the Ivory Coast international said: “Fast. Quick to connect with the ball and a good finisher as well. That is also an area where I have made progress. I would say that I am quick and a dribbler.”
Pepe started out as a goalkeeper before reverting to an outfield player during his time with amateur side Poitiers.
A switch to Angers followed before he moved to the top flight with Lille in 2017 – scoring 35 league goals in his two seasons with last year’s runners-up in the Ligue 1 title race.
Pepe hopes to follow Alexandre Lacazette, who moved to the Emirates Stadium from Lyon in 2017, in making a major impact with the north London club.
“When I knew I was coming to Arsenal, I immediately thought of the French guys who play here,” Pepe told www.Arsenal.com.
“I thought of (Mesut) Ozil, the world champions, Lacazette, Aubameyang and many more. Of course, these are the players who sprang to mind because I used to watch them when I was at Lille.
“Also, Lacazette used to play for Lyon and so I have had the opportunity to play against him. It will be an honour to play alongside him.”
The signing of Pepe follows this summer’s 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.
It is believed a deal for Celtic full-back Kieran Tierney remains possible after the Scottish champions rejected Arsenal’s first two bids, while the futures of centre-back pairing Laurent Koscielny and Shkodran Mustafi remain uncertain.
Speaking after Arsenal’s friendly at Angers on Wednesday night, Emery appeared to offer an olive branch to the club captain.
Koscielny had refused to travel on a pre-season tour after his request to have his contract terminated to allow him to join another club was rejected by Arsenal.
“At the moment it’s a very personal decision, and we are respecting that,” Emery said.
“I am speaking with him and we are going to find the best solution, but overall we need a player like him.”
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