Expected to leave Lille as soon as the transfer window opened, Nicolas Pépé’s exit from the Ligue 1 side dragged on longer than expected, leaving many clubs waiting for his decision.
Eventually surprising many by accepting to join Arsenal, the winger made his debut for his new club at the weekend, coming off the bench in a 1-0 win over Newcastle.
Despite facing competition from big clubs, the Gunners won the race to sign a much coveted player, and France Football explain how they did it.
They explain Paris Saint-Germain and their former director of football Antero Henrique were one of the first to make contact last December, but that changed when Leonardo took his place.
Even if the Ligue 1 champions continued to be keen until the very end, it’s explained the interest was ‘diluted’ as they were waiting for a big sale to throw themselves into it more seriously.
In the meantime, other clubs reached out, such as Atlético Madrid, Liverpool, Napoli and Arsenal, with the London club reportedly offering €40-50m early on to ‘test the waters’.
However, France Football explain the Gunners ‘hid their game well throughout’, never truly revealing their intentions, before making the decisive move late on to ‘convince the Ivorian’.
Unai Emery reportedly persuaded Pépé by talking to him about the project he had in mind and his ‘desire to have him in his squad’.
The rest is history.
We’ll have to see whether the transfer pays off in the long run, and it might take a couple of months for the player to adapt to his surroundings, but, on paper, Arsenal have pulled off an impressive piece of business no one really saw coming.