Nicolas Pépé (born 29 May 1995) is a professional footballer who plays as a winger for English Premier League club Arsenal and the Ivory Coast national team.
Born in Mantes-la-Jolie, Île-de-France, Pépé stared his career originally playing as a Goalkeeper for local side Solitaire Paris Est until he was 14 years old. But he began his professional career playing as an outfield player with Poitiers in the Championnat de France Amateur 2 (fifth tier) in 2012–13.
He signed for Angers in 2013, and spent his first season with the reserves in the CFA 2.
He made his professional debut in the second round of the Coupe de la Ligue in a 2–1 home loss to Arles-Avignon on 26 August 2014, as a 73rd-minute substitute for Yohann Eudeline. His first Ligue 2 match was on 21 November 2014, starting in a 1–1 Ligue 2 draw away to Ajaccio.
Pépé was loaned to Orléans for the 2015–16 Championnat National, and helped the club to promotion from the third tier as runners-up. He returned to an Angers side playing in Ligue 1 and which reached the 2017 Coupe de France Final, where he started in a 1–0 loss to Paris Saint-Germain at the Stade de France.
On 21 June 2017, Pépé signed a five-year deal with Lille, for a maximum transfer fee of €10 million, after being signed by head coach Marcelo Bielsa who had scouted the player by watching footage of every Ligue 1 game he had played in for Angers, before scouting him in person. Pépé described Bielsa as "special" and a "great coach". He started the season playing as a striker after being converted into playing the position under Bielsa, before finishing the season under the new Lille head coach Christophe Galtier playing as a winger.
During the entirety of the 2017–18 Ligue 1 season, he was a regular in a Lille side that narrowly avoided relegation, missing only two games and scoring 13 times, including two apiece in away wins at Metz and Toulouse.
On 15 September 2018 during the 2018–19 Ligue 1 season, Pépé scored a hat-trick, including two penalties, in the 3–2 away win over Amiens. Days later, it was confirmed by club president Gérard Lopez that FC Barcelona were among several clubs that were interested in signing him. On 14 April 2019, Pépé scored a goal and provided two assists in the 5–1 home win over Paris Saint-Germain. He finished the 2018-19 Ligue 1 season with 22 goals, second only to PSG's Kylian Mbappé, with 11 assists, and was named in the UNFP Team of the Year.
On 26 July 2019, it was announced that Serie A side S.S.C. Napoli had agreed a £71.7 million pound fee with Lille.
On 1 August 2019, it was announced that Pépé had joined Premier League club Arsenal in a club-record fee of €79 million (£72 million), eclipsing the previous record of €62 million for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Upon signing for Arsenal, he was handed the number 19 shirt.
Pépé was born in France to parents of Ivorian descent. He received a callup to the Ivory Coast national football team in November 2016, and was an unused substitute in the goalless draw away to Morocco in 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification on 12 November. He made his debut three days later in a friendly of the same score against his birth nation France at the Stade Bollaert-Delelis in Lens, playing the final four minutes in place of Max-Alain Gradel.
Pépé was named in Michel Dussuyer's 23-man squad for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon, but took no part as the Elephants were eliminated from their group.
On 24 March 2018, in a friendly against Togo in France, Pépé scored his first international goals in the first half of a 2–2 draw. He followed it three days later with another goal in a 2–1 win against Moldova in the same stadium.
Style of play
Pépé is known as a pacey and skilled attacking winger who is comfortable on both flanks, but usually plays on the right wing cutting onto his left foot, he was also converted by former head coach at Lille OSC Marcelo Bielsa to play as a striker.