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Arsenal in the hunt for Nicolas Pepe

Arsenal are interested in putting together a deal to sign Lille winger Nicolas Pepe.

PA understands that reports of an agreement already being in place may be premature, but the Gunners are keen to land the sought-after Ivory Coast international.

The 24-year-old scored 22 goals in Ligue 1 last year and has previously been linked with Manchester United and Napoli among others.

But now Arsenal have emerged as the surprising front-runners to complete a deal.

Pepe started his career with French club Angers and has shone since joining Lille in 2017.

Any deal is expected to include Arsenal paying in instalments and comes after senior figures at the club played down previous reports of a summer transfer budget of just £40million.

Speaking at a supporter question-and-answer session on Thursday night, managing director Vinai Venkatesham said there was “a huge amount of misinformation out there” and the club never brief what money is available to invest in new players.

The Europa League finalists have made three signings so far this summer.

Striker Gabriel Martinelli, 18, joined earlier in the window before a season-long loan deal for Real Madrid midfielder Dani Ceballos was announced last week.

The signing of William Saliba from St Etienne was confirmed just hours after Ceballos but the 18-year-old France youth international will spend the next season back on loan at the Ligue 1 outfit.