Arsenal have completed the signing of Lille winger Nicolas Pepe after paying a team-record transfer fee, despite facing competition from Napoli, Paris Saint-Germain, Inter Milan and Atletico Madrid.
Arsenal’s bid of €80 million to be paid out over five years, which Lille accepted, was matched by the four other clubs.
“Nicolas is a highly rated and talented winger who was wanted by many of the top teams in Europe,” Arsenal manager Unai Emery said in a statement.
“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.”
Napoli were believed to have been Arsenal’s main challengers in pursuit of Pepe, 24, but the Ivory Coast international preferred a move to North London. After Arsenal’s bid was accepted, Pepe underwent his medical in London before completing the move.
“Being here is very emotional because it has not been easy for me,” said Pepe. “I have come a long way and struggled a lot and so signing for this great club is a big reward.”
Arsenal had been linked with a move for Pepe’s Ivory Coast teammate Wilfried Zaha, but the club were unable to agree to a deal with Crystal Palace, who wanted £70m.
Pepe joined Lille from Angers in 2017 and his first campaign with the Ligue 1 side was an impressive one as he hit 13 goals, despite battling relegation for much of the season. He then exploded into life in his second term as his 22 league goals helped Lille to finish runners-up to PSG.