Arsenal are on the verge of smashing their transfer record to sign Lille winger Nicolas Pepe.
Despite harbouring obvious concerns over a defence which leaked 51 goals in the Premier League last season, Unai Emery was keen to strengthen his attacking options with wingers Alex Iwobi and Henrikh Mkhitaryan flattering to deceive during his first campaign in charge of the north London club.
Arsenal have the likes of Emile Smith Rowe, Reiss Nelson and Bukayo Saka, as well as summer signing Gabriel Martinelli, staking claims for promotion to the first team, but Emery is set to invest a significant chunk of his transfer budget on the 24-year-old Ivory Coast international.
The Gunners had made enquiries for Barcelona’s out of favour Brazil international Malcom as well as his compatriot Everton Soares and also made a formal offer of £40million to Crystal Palace for Pepe’s compatriot Wilfried Zaha earlier this summer.
That bid was dismissed out of hand by the Eagles who valued Zaha, who is now attracting significant interest from Everton, at closer to £80m and wanted at least £55m up front.
Palace’s stance forced Arsenal to turn their attentions to Pepe, who scored 23 goals in all competitions last season and helped Lille qualify for the Champions League as runners-up to PSG in Ligue 1.
According to the Independent, Lille were far more accommodating than Palace in terms of receiving payment in a number of installments which will be spread out over five years, while the player’s wage demands are said to be much lower than those of Zaha’s.
Arsenal, who steadfastly refused to deal with super agents during Arsene Wenger’s reign, reportedly drafted in Jorge Mendes to help broker a deal and Pepe is now expected to undergo a medical later this week and could be in line to make his debut against Barcelona in the Joan Gamper trophy on Sunday.