Having once donned the iconic red and white of Arsenal, Nicolas Pepe now finds himself amidst the claret-blue sea of Trabzonspor fans.
In a candid conversation, the Ivorian winger discussed his transition, the motivations behind the move, and memories of his time in North London.
“Maybe the first season benefited me a lot, it challenged me a little mentally. We achieved success in this first season and won trophies.
“The second season was much better in terms of adaptation and statistics, I performed better, but the third season was a bit complicated. I had to respect the coach’s choice throughout this season.
“Not having played is a complicated and difficult enough situation for a player. In the fourth season, I was loaned. It went well in the beginning and until mid-season. I was injured in the middle of this season.
“This injury then started to complicate things.”
That injury, a blow to his knee, kept Pepe sidelined for a considerable time.
“I haven’t played a match for 4 months due to an injury to my knee,” he shared. Despite the setback, his spirit remains unbroken, “One thing is certain, I am ready to play.
“My injury did not cause any decrease in me physically.
“When you leave the field and move away from the field, you lose rhythm, that’s for sure, but now we are starting training again.
“Our first priority right now will be to catch the rhythm in order to stay on the field for 90 minutes. We will discuss this issue with the technical team. I don’t decide whether I should play or not. The opinion of the medical team is also important.”
“There were other Turkish teams interested in me,” he mentioned, underlining the competitive nature of his transfer, “but what made the difference was about the president, vice president, and coach.” The club’s leadership, evidently, played a pivotal role in sealing his move.
Pepe’s bond with the club was further evident when he expressed, “I know Trabzonspor is a different club. It has a lot to do with family spirit.” It’s clear he resonates deeply with the team’s ethos and values.
“Just like in the championship won two years ago. We need to get back to that level this season, I know he will try to get back there.
“I know that we have to work hard with our coach and the team. I know we have to work hard to win the championship again.
“I hope we will achieve many successes this season with this team, ”
Yet, every transition comes with its unique set of challenges. Pepe addressed concerns regarding his short-term contract, clarifying, “It was a mutual agreement. A 1-year contract is obviously short, but my representatives made a short-term plan.”
Pepe wasn’t entirely alone in this process. He received advice and support from his peers, “Kouassi is the person I am closest to, and he gave me a very good idea about the club.” Such insights surely eased his transition into a new footballing culture.
About the reception he received from his new fans, Pepe said, “This is something that can put a lot of pressure on me, but for me it is the pressure of the first day.
“This pressure is something that will turn into the love and affection of the fans as they push me.
“This will be what will push me to fight for this jersey.”
Now valued at €18m, Nicolas Pepe is the most valuable player (by €5m) at his new club that has a squad with a total value of €127.38m – just €43m more than Arsenal paid for Pepe in the first place.