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A member of Nicolas Pepe’s entourage has revealed just how close the forward came to joining Napoli before Arsenal’s ‘sporting project’ convinced him to complete a move to the Emirates.
Arsenal are expected to announce Pepe’s arrival in the coming days after reaching a €80million (£72m) agreement with Lille for the 24-year-old attacker.
Unai Emery has been determined to bring in a top-class attacker this summer and turned his attentions to Pepe after Crystal Palace rejected Arsenal’s £40million bid for Wilfried Zaha.
Napoli were also ready to meet Lille’s asking price for Pepe, but the Ivory Coast international felt a move to the Premier League was a far better fit at this stage of his career.
While Napoli failed to agree personal terms with Pepe, it appears the Serie A outfit were on the cusp of a deal for the winger before Arsenal’s ‘more convincing’ offer.
‘After meeting and discarding several clubs, Nicolas Pepe was able to choose between Naples and Arsenal,’ one of Pepe’s close associates told Ivorian publication Sport Mania.
‘I won’t lie to you: a total agreement was almost reached with Napoli. ‘But Arsenal’s offer was more convincing, both financially and in terms of the sporting project.’
Napoli boss Carlo Ancelotti has insisted he’s ‘not disappointed’ by reports indicating that Pepe will join Arsenal imminently.
‘I’m not disappointed,’ the Italian said. ‘I don’t like to talk about players of other teams. The market is so long. ‘We are looking. If there are opportunities, we can do it.’
Following Arsenal’s defeat to Lyon at the Emirates Cup, Emery claimed the club were still working to sign players
‘who will improve the squad’. ‘The club is thinking on how we can improve,’ he said. ‘There are different players on the table. Pepe’s a very good player. We only want players who can really, really improve the squad.