Nicolas Pepe has admitted his manager at Lille expected him to choose Bayern Munich this summer, but the winger says it’s a dream to join Arsenal instead.
Over the summer, Pepe drew plenty of interest from around Europe. He’d scored 23 goals and assisted 12 for Lille in 2018/19, and Napoli, Bayern Munich and Arsenal were all heavily linked with interest in a move.
Speaking to Canal Football Club (via GFFN), Pepe admitted that Lille boss Christophe Galtier expected him to choose Germany and Bayern. Instead, the winger made the decision to move to North London, which he knows might surprise some people.
“He (Galtier) imagined me at Bayern, in terms of what he said,” Pepe said. “For me, it was a decision that might surprise people, because it is not a club that is in the Champions’ League, but it is also a club with a lot of ambition, we are playing the Europa League which is still a European competition. We want to win it.
“I’m at Arsenal, I am hoping to write my own history at Arsenal. Arsenal is a top, top club in England.
“When we were little still it was the era with Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, Ljungberg, Bergkamp, you know the Invincibles. And us as kids, we were watching that, so for me, it is a dream to be here.”
It’s far from the first time a French-born player has cited the Invincibles era as what drew them to Arsenal. The likes of Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira and Robert Pires gave many young footballers in the country someone to look up to with the Gunners.
Many years later, they’re still inspiring the likes of Pepe to choose to join Arsenal over some of Europe’s top clubs.
Arsenal could well have a new generation of French and French-born stars to inspire future talents, with the likes of Alexandre Lacazette, Matteo Guendouzi, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Nicolas Pepe leading the team right now.
If they really want to make their mark though, they need to get back in the Champions League and win some trophies. It’s not enough to score a lot of goals and put in some exciting individual performances in a team that finishes fifth and loses finals.
Pepe’s goal against Aston Villa and a couple of assists against Spurs and Frankfurt should give him the confidence to push on now. If he does, the team will be in a great position to go up a level.