When Arsenal announced the signing of 24-year-old Ivorian international Nicolas Pepe, he became officially the most expensive African football transfer.
The English Premier League side dished out $89m to French side Lille for the signature of Pepe. He signed a five-year deal with the London side.
England is his second European destination having previously played for three French sides – before joining Lille in 2017, he played for Angers from 2013 – 2017. His first professional stint was with Poitiers, in the French 5th tier.
But in an extensive interview with Arsenal.com, he listed his parents as top of the list of people who helped him on his way up the career ladder.
Pepe hails his parents sacrifice
“My parents have always been there for me. They were there during the toughest times and the best times and they are still here right now.
“They sacrificed everything, absolutely everything. My father stopped working, my mother stopped working. They came to live with me just because of football and just so that I could make my dreams come true.
“That is what they have done to this day. They helped me make this dream come true and they will continue to be by my side to support me.”
The Pepe family emigrated to France from Ivory Coast in 1995, and their stories of that adjustment have kept their son grounded. “They told us how difficult it was, especially when we were at school,” he said.
“They used to tell me that we had everything and they used to have nothing. They would walk 10 kilometres barefoot and we were lucky to be able to go to school by bus. We were lucky to be where we were, so we should make the most of it.
“Because of what they gave me, it makes me proud that I can make them happy.”
Pepe transfer record, praise by coach Emery
Winger Nicolas Pepe has become our record signing after joining us from Ligue 1 club Lille.
The 24 year-old Ivory Coast international completed the paperwork on his move on last Thursday. He will wear the No.19 shirt.
Head coach Unai Emery said: “Nicolas is a highly-rated and talented winger who was wanted by many of the top teams in Europe.
“Signing a top-class winger has been one of our key objectives in this transfer window and I’m delighted he’s joining.
“He will add pace, power and creativity, with the aim of bringing more goals to our team.”