£72m Arsenal flop set for summer transfer after contract decision

Nicolas Pepe of Ivory Coast during the TotalEnergies CAF Africa Cup of Nations group stage match between Ivory Coast and Guinea-Bissau at on January 13, 2024
Nicolas Pepe set to be without a club -Credit:Photo by Ulrik Pedersen/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Former Arsenal forward Nicolas Pepe is set to become a free agent after his contract with Trabzonspor expires at the end of June, just one year after leaving the Emirates Stadium.

The 28-year-old Ivorian, who joined the Gunners for a then club-record fee of £72million from Lille in 2019, spent four years at the Emirates, netting 27 goals in 112 appearances before his contract was terminated last summer. After a loan spell at Nice during the 2022/23 season, he moved to the Turkish club on a free transfer in September.

Pepe made an impressive start at Trabzonspor, scoring twice and providing one assist in his first three starts. However, a hamstring injury and his participation in the African Cup of Nations resulted in him not starting a game for the Turkish side for four months.

Despite a promising return to the starting XI in March, where he scored and provided an assist against Karagumruk, Pepe has struggled to maintain form, scoring just once in his last six appearances. Reports now suggest that Pepe will depart Trabzonspor when his short-term contract ends in June.

Despite receiving offers from Saudi Arabia, it's reported that Pepe hopes to continue his career in Europe. He has been linked with a move to Italy.

Pepe looks set to have just five games remaining for Trabzonspor, who are set to finish third in the Turkish Super Lig table. They face Karagumruk in the Turkish Cup semi-final on Wednesday evening, before three more league fixtures against Istanbulspor, Istanbul Basaksehir and Ankaragucu.

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The winger, who joined Arsenal under Unai Emery, had a challenging debut season in north London, contributing only five goals and six assists in 31 Premier League appearances. However, his fortunes changed when Mikel Arteta took over, with Pepe shining in his second season.

The winger netted 16 goals and provided five assists in all competitions for the Gunners during the 2020/21 season, becoming the club's second top scorer behind Alexandre Lacazette (17). Despite this, he found himself out of favour and was given fewer first-team opportunities in the subsequent campaign.

This resulted in Pepe being loaned out to Sir Jim Ratcliffe's Nice in August 2022. He had a reasonably successful stint in southern France, but injuries hampered his progress, and he returned to the Gunners having scored eight goals in 28 appearances.