Arsenal break club transfer record to sign Pepe from Lille

Arsenal announced the signing of winger Nicolas Pepe from French side Lille on August 1, 2019 for a club-record fee reported to be 80 million euros. (AFP)
Updated 02 August 2019

Arsenal break club transfer record to sign Pepe from Lille

  • 24-year-old Ivory Coast international is moving to the Premier League
  • Pepe started out as a goalkeeper before reverting to being an outfield player

LONDON: Arsenal have broken their transfer record to sign winger Nicolas Pepe from Lille as the London club try to return to the Champions League.
The 24-year-old Ivory Coast international is moving to the Premier League in a transfer deal worth a reported 80 million euros ($89 million).
Pepe’s move, announced Thursday, eclipses the £55 million ($67 million) spent on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in January 2018 as Arsenal add another attacking option to a squad that finished fifth last season.
Arsenal manager Unai Emery said: “Nicolas is a highly-rated and talented winger who was wanted by many of the top teams in Europe. Signing a top-class winger has been one of our key objectives in this transfer window and I’m delighted he’s joining. He will add pace, power and creativity, with the aim of bringing more goals to our team.”
Pepe started out as a goalkeeper before reverting to being an outfield player during his time with amateur side Poitiers.
A switch to Angers followed before he moved to Lille in 2017, scoring 35 league goals in his two seasons with last year’s runners-up in the French league.
Arsenal will be playing in the second-tier Europa League again after losing in that league’s final to rivals Chelsea and failing to finish in the Premier League’s top four.


Africa Cup switch to winter sends a chill through European leagues

Updated 21 January 2020

Africa Cup switch to winter sends a chill through European leagues

  • High-profile African players playing in England include the Arsenal duo Pierre-Emerick Aubamayang of Gabon and Nicolas Pepe of Cote d’Ivoire

CAIRO: There is little doubt that the switch by the Africa Cup of Nations from summer to winter competition will have a big impact on European competitions, with those at the top of the Premier League perhaps most affected.

The confederation confirmed that from 2021 when Cameroon will play host, the tournament will revert back to being played in January and February.

The tournament was moved to a June-July slot for last year’s edition in Egypt, which meant minimal disruption to the European domestic season. But plenty of Premier League managers will be left with problems this time next year, with several stars likely to leave for up to six weeks, including pre-tournament preparations.

Liverpool coach Jurgen Klopp appears to face the biggest headache given that two of his star attacking players, Mohamed Salah from Egypt and Sadio Mane from Senegal, both featured in the African tournament last summer and are almost certain to be involved in the 2021 competition in some capacity.

High-profile African players playing in England include the Arsenal duo Pierre-Emerick Aubamayang of Gabon and Nicolas Pepe of Cote d’Ivoire, while Manchester City will lose Riyad Mahrez should Algeria feature.

Klopp is critical of the decision to move the tournament dates, calling it “a catastrophe.” Salah and Mane’s absence would leave huge gaps in the Liverpool side. There is also Cameroon’s Joel Matip and Guinea’s Naby Keita to worry about. Matip has become solid at the back. Keita, too, would be a loss given his recent resurgence.

The Liverpool manager is upset because last year’s tournament was moved to mid-year to end a long-standing clash between clubs and countries over the release of their players. It was felt that common sense had prevailed when the tournament, which since 1960 had always been held during winter, reverted to summer. African players in western European clubs would no longer find themselves the target of competing claims for their attention every other season, which would benefit the players and their clubs and countries, and lead to fewer squabbles.

But then Cameroon changed its mind about hosting the tournament in summer next year, changing the dates from June and July to between Jan. 6 and Feb. 6. Why? The weather. It’s simply too hot in Cameroon in summer.

Organizers said they had agreed to the change after discussions with player and coach representatives.

But didn’t Cameroon know beforehand that its summers are too hot, too humid and right in the middle of its rainy season? That the country does not enjoy ideal conditions for football in summer could not have taken its organizers by complete surprise.

The situation serves as a vivid reminder of the botch-up of the 2022 Qatar World Cup. The host and FIFA decided that the World Cup, which is forever played in summer, would be moved to winter because of Qatar’s oppressive heat — but that decision came only after Qatar won the bid. That change, again, will mean a head-on clash with international tournaments and club competitions.

A football tournament simply cannot keep changing when it will be held as often as people change their socks. This is especially true for the Africa Cup of Nations, which is played every two years.

A major sports tournament must have fixed times. And, to be sure, its organizers should understand that you can’t please everybody. A championship’s times are bound to clash with some tournament or other. The African tournament, for example, will avoid a clash with FIFA’s revamped 24-team Club World Cup to be played in China in June and July 2021. But it cannot but conflict with European leagues. The important thing is to stay the course. Once a date is picked, it should be stuck to like glue.