Lille chief insists Arsenal did ‘incredible deal’ to complete Nicolas Pepe transfer

Arsenal signed Nicolas Pepe for a club record £72million from Lille last summer
Arsenal signed Nicolas Pepe for a club record £72million from Lille last summer (Picture: Getty)

Lille president Gerard Lopez has refuted the suggestion that Arsenal significantly overpaid to sign Nicolas Pepe last summer.

The Gunners smashed their transfer record 12 months ago, spending £72million on the Ivory Coast international, despite the club’s then manager, Unai Emery, recommending the signing of Wilfried Zaha instead.

Pepe struggled to win his former manager’s faith, but began to show flashes of his true potential during the latter stages of a campaign which culminated in Mikel Arteta masterminding an FA Cup final win over Chelsea.

Reports last week claimed the Gunners were set to hold an internal investigation into their most recent transfer dealings, fearing they overspent on the 24-year-old winger.

Arsenal have refuted those claims, but Lopez insists his club could have attracted an even larger fee for Pepe, a player whose best is yet to come in an Arsenal shirt.

Unai Emery failed to get the best out of Nicolas Pepe
Unai Emery failed to get the best out of Nicolas Pepe (Picture: Getty)

He told talkSPORT: ‘No, Arsenal did one hell of a deal. They got a player that other people wanted & they got a player whom one club were offering more money for.

‘It was Pepe’s management team that asked us to go to Arsenal & so we accepted slightly less money than we would have got somewhere else.

‘He’s a young player & a player that functions on people believing in him. Giving him opportunities but also responsibilities.

‘I’m not going to question tactically how he was played for half a season. What I’m going to say is that, in his case, the best is yet to come”

‘He’s very tough to stop, especially when he’s in the last 30 or 40 metres. You either have to foul him or he’s going to make a pass or create a goal opportunity. That kind of talent is very rare.

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