Arsenal are confident of signing Nicolas Pepe from Lille after agreeing a £72m fee for the winger, according to sources in Italy.
Lille president Gerard Lopez confirmed on Friday that Napoli had agreed a deal for the 24-year-old winger, but Arsenal appear to have trumped the Italian side by offering superior terms.
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Napoli were willing to pay Pepe £3.6m per year, but with the Ivory Coast international seeking a £4.5m annual salary, Arsenal have made a stronger offer.
Lopez, the Lille president, told Sky Sky Sports News yesterday: “We’ve had interest from three UK clubs along with clubs from Spain and a number in Italy.
“We do have relationships with a good few of those clubs where we feel the player would be best suited and we offer our advice, however we can’t do anything if the player doesn’t want to go, so it’s now the player’s decision.”
Arsenal’s focus had been on signing Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha for a similar fee, but Lille’s willingness to receive a lower fee upfront with the rest in instalments makes a move for Pepe more financially viable.
This could clear a path for Everton to get Zaha this summer. The Merseyside club are in talks with Palace and set to bid £60m for the Ivory Coast international.
It is understood the Toffees are also willing to include a player in any potential deal with Palace for Zaha, who is keen to test himself at a new club after four-and-a-half years at Selhurst Park.
A deal for Pepe would eclipse the club-record £60m Arsenal paid for striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in January 2018.
Along with Arsenal, Manchester United have also been linked with Pepe, who scored 22 goals and contributed 11 assists in Ligue 1 last season.
“Pepe will return from his holidays on Monday (tomorrow) and I think that he will make his mind up halfway through the week,” Lopez added. “We asked him to stay last year and promised him we would let him go during this transfer window.” The pacy, left-footed winger proved last season that he also has plenty, scoring 22 times in Ligue 1 and racking up 11 assists as Lille finished second in the table behind Paris St-Germain.
While nine of those goals came from the penalty spot, Pepe’s trademark finish has become a left-foot finish after cutting in from the right wing.
The highlight of his season was his goal and two assists in the 5-1 demolition of PSG in April and only PSG’s Kylian Mbappe (33 goals) scored more than the Lille ace during that campaign.