Sunday 25 August 2019

Arsenal ready to shatter their transfer record as top-rated winger edges closer to Premier League switch

Unai Emery is heading into his second season as Arsenal head coach (Bradley Collyer/PA)
Unai Emery is heading into his second season as Arsenal head coach (Bradley Collyer/PA)
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

Arsenal are ready to shatter their transfer record after making a breakthrough in talks with Lille to sign their Ivory Coast winger Nicolas Pepe in a £72m deal.

Italian side Napoli have also been chasing Pepe and were prepared to match Lille's lavish asking price, with their head coach Carlo Ancelotti confirming on Friday that a deal was in place to sign the 24-year-old.

"Obviously, we are interested in Pepe, his agents are here and there’s no point hiding that. Negotiations are in progress and we’ll see what happens," said Ancelotti. "Pepe is a wide attacking player. We want to find someone who can play between the lines."

Now it appears Pepe has a choice to make over his next career move, with the attacking star who fired 22 goals in Ligue 1 last season reported to favour a move to England.

Only Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe scored more goals in the French top-flight last season than Pepe, with his pace and finishing ability attracting huge interest from clubs across Europe in recent weeks.

Now it appears that Arsenal have won the race to secure his signature, with the staggered structure of the deal helping the Gunners to finance their move for Pepe in a summer that sees manager Unai Emery working with a relatively modest budget.

Arsenal's move for Pepe appears to end their interest in Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha, after their initial bid of around £40m was rejected and ridiculed by Palace chairman Steve Parish earlier this month.

Zaha has made it clear that he is keen to leave Palace in this transfer window, but have been informed by sources close to the player that he will not hand in a transfer request in a bid to force through a move.

Everton have been linked with a move for Zaha in the last 48 hours, but the former Manchester United winger is believed to be keen to join a club playing Champions League football.

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