There’s is nobody alive who doesn’t know that Arsenal agreed to pay £72m for Nicolas Pepe when they bought him from Lille in 2019, but, given how those payments were structured, did you know they seem to still have £21m left to pay.

raul sanllehi applauds while at arsenal
raul sanllehi

A little over two years after he was sacked from Arsenal, Raul Sanllehi is all over the media following an interview he gave to The Athletic.

That prompted me to look back at some articles we published around that time, one of which took a closer look at what many fans had called Sanllehi’s ‘finest hour’ at the club – the 2019 transfer window.

Hindsight is, of course, a wonderful thing, but it was clear even then that Arsenal had vastly overpaid for Pepe, a deal that would ultimately cost Sanllehi is position at Arsenal.

Pepe was, after all, valued at just £27m the season before when Arsenal were first linked with him. 23 goals and 12 assists in 41 appearances in the 18/19 season saw that valuation increase to £58.5m, reaching a peak of £67.5m a month after Arsenal signed him.

In that window, Arsenal were widely reported to only have around £40m to spend. Somehow, they still managed to sign David Luiz (£7.83m), Dani Ceballos (£15m loan fee first season) , Kieran Tierney (£24.3m), William Saliba (£27m), Gabriel Martinelli (£6.39m), and, of course, Nicolas Pepe (£72m), for a total outlay of £152.52m.

While that was much more than Arsenal were supposed to be able to spend, it was the £72m for Pepe that generated all the headlines in a world where price is meant to equal talent.

In this case, it most certainly did not.

Arsenal's French-born Ivorian midfielder Nicolas Pepe (L) is shown a red card by atch Referee Anthony Taylor (R) during the English Premier League football match between Leeds United and Arsenal at Elland Road in Leeds, northern England on November 22, 2020. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / POOL / AFP)
Arsenal’s French-born Ivorian midfielder Nicolas Pepe (L) is shown a red card by atch Referee Anthony Taylor (R) during the English Premier League football match between Leeds United and Arsenal at Elland Road in Leeds, northern England on November 22, 2020. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / POOL / AFP)

Pepe struggled in England and, despite showing glimpses of the very real talent that lies inside him, he was unable to direct his concentration in ways that pleased Mikel Arteta. Sent out on loan this season, Pepe already seems more comfortable back in Ligue 1 with OGC Nice.

He might only have one goal in seven appearances so far, and no assists, but he is averaging a match rating of 7.26. In three seasons with Arsenal, he never once rated above 6.92, with an average of 6.76 across his time in London.

But back to the money spent on him.

Arsenal reportedly paid £20m upfront for the Ivorian with the remaining £52m to be paid in instalments over the next five years up to 2024, when Pepe’s contract with Arsenal ends.

That works out at £10.4m-a-year.

With just under two years left until then, that leaves £20.8m outstanding.

  • 2019 £20m initial fee (paid)
  • 2020 £10.4m instalment (paid)
  • 2021 £10.4m instalment (paid)
  • 2022 £10.4m instalment (paid)
  • 2023 £10.4m instalment (outstanding)
  • 2024 £10.4m instalment (outstanding)

Of course, there is the possibility than Arsenal have cleared this early but, as you know, if a ‘loan’ isn’t going to cost you money to repay over a longer period, most people would prefer to keep the cash in their own bank so they can collect the interest.

As mentioned, Pepe’s contract expires at Arsenal in 2024 and they will be hoping they can sell him next summer.

Who will buy him, however, and how much they will pay remains to be seen. There is apparently no option in his loan deal for Nice to purchase him.

Pepe is currently valued at £22.5m, a price tag than has been on a steady downward spiral since he arrived at Arsenal.

Nicolas Pepe market value September 2022 via Transfermarkt
Nicolas Pepe market value September 2022 via Transfermarkt
Previous articleArsenal send scouts to watch £44m midfielder on 2 occasions
Next article6-goal Villarreal star with €35m release clause in Arsenal’s sights
Writer. Feminist. Dreamer. Gooner. Owner of DailyCannon.com, writing about Arsenal since 2008. Sometimes found in the Guardian, Vice.com & elsewhere talking queer issues, politics & football. If in doubt, assume sarcasm.