Nicolas Pepe was left out of the Arsenal squad to face Bournemouth with a return to France shaping up, and his exit could spark a significant late signing, per a report.
The Ivory Coast winger, 27, became Arsenal’s club-record buy in 2019. The Gunners committed to a final transfer fee with Lille worth £72m that would be paid in a series of instalments.
Pepe did bag 16 goals across all competitions in his second season in north London. However, the emergence of Bukayo Saka has placed an insurmountable obstacle in his path.
What’s more, Pepe’s form when called upon in the cups or off the bench has tailed off badly. After three years at the Emirates, his time looks up.
Indeed, the Athletic reported ambitious Ligue 1 side Nice were mobilising over a loan move. Nice have already caught headlines this summer with Kasper Schmeichel and Aaron Ramsey coups.
It is understood Arsenal wish to sign a new winger before the September 1 deadline. However, they will only do so once Pepe has been shifted out and providing the new player can actually make an impact in their first-team straight away.
Raphinha would’ve been one such player who would’ve ticked that box. Arsenal did bid for the former Leeds talisman, but the lure of Barcelona ultimately proved too strong.
Now, the Athletic’s David Ornstein has shed light on the latest regarding Pepe to Nice.
Nicolas Pepe returning to France?
Ornstein tweeted Pepe is understood to be keen on returning to France with Nice. What’s more, he claimed discussions regarding personal terms are currently underway.
To help smoothen the process, Pepe was not included in Arsenal’s matchday squad to face Bournemouth on Saturday evening.
Regarding the structure of deal, a season-long loan is in the works. An option or obligation to buy would obviously be to Arsenal’s benefit, though Ornstein did not suggest whether such a clause would be included.
Hinting a clause of that nature may not be included, Sky Sports added Arsenal are looking for a ‘sizeable’ loan fee. Nice, meanwhile, want Arsenal to subsidise the player’s wages.
Pepe’s contract at Arsenal expires in 2024, meaning he’ll enter the final year of his deal next summer if he returns to Arsenal after the proposed Nice loan concludes.
Who could Arsenal sign?
Raphinha is off the table, though another forward they were linked with earlier this summer may soon be available – Cody Gakpo.
The Dutch winger, 23, will cost around £35m and is Manchester United’s back-up target if they fail to sign Antony.
PSV Eindhoven won’t entertain offers until their Champions League fate is determined. They’re currently in the play-off round and the second leg of their tie against Rangers is on Wednesday, August 24. The score is tied at 2-2 after the first leg.
Elsewhere, Arsenal continue to draw links with Villarreal sensation, Yeremi Pino.
The 19-year-old holds a release clause worth a reported £67m, though it may not take that much to prise him from Unai Emery’s grasp.