Arsenal are poised to break their club-record transfer fee on Lille winger Nicolas Pepe after agreeing to a $80m (£72m) deal with the Ligue 1 club.
In what is a significant move away from priority target Wilfried Zaha, Arsenal are ready to break the existing record of the £60m that the club paid Borussia Dortmund last year for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, with 24-year-old Pepe set to sign a five-year-deal worth around £9m per season.
The Ivory Coast international has also attracted attention this summer from Serie A side Napoli, who also agreed a deal with Lille to begin personal talks, but they proved unsuccessful after hitting difficulty in negotiating a fee with the player’s representatives.
That allowed Arsenal to steal a march on the Italian outfit and after agreeing a fee with Lille, reports emerged on Saturday to claim that talks between club and player are expected to be a formality ahead of a deal that will be announced as early as Monday.
The progress in sealing the Ivory Coast international’s signature comes two days after Arsenal announced the double-signing of defender William Saliba and Dani Ceballos from St Etienne and Real Madrid respectively, although with the former remaining in France on loan this season and the latter only on loan until next summer, the deal to sign Pepe represents a much bigger statement.
If completed, the move will stand as the biggest arrival in the Premier League this summer, surpassing the £62m that Manchester City paid to activate Rodri’s release clause at Atletico Madrid last month, and ends all interest in Zaha that leaves the Crystal Palace winger with a choice to either pursue a move to Everton or a club abroad, or remain at Selhurst Park for at least another season.
With 23 goals to his name in Ligue 1 last season, Pepe could form a formidable trio alongside Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette, although manager Unai Emery was at times reluctant to play the two strikers together last season and the prospect of deploying all three attacking options could easily leave Arsenal exposed where they are most brittle in defence.
It is also not a given that both Aubameyang and Lacazette will still be at the Emirates Stadium come the start of the season, although by doing so Arsenal may appease a number of fans who have expressed their frustration with the direction of the club, having slipped closer to the likes of Wolverhampton Wanderers, Everton and Watford as opposed to the top of the Premier League and facing a third consecutive campaign in the Europa League this season. (Independent, UK)