Arsenal target Pepe reveals Lyon interest last summer

The Ivory Coast striker said he wanted to stay loyal after a promise made to his manager

In-demand winger Nicolas Pepe has revealed he turned down a move to Lyon last summer in order to stay at Lille for one more season.

The 23-year-old has become one of the most highly regarded young players in Ligue 1, having scored 18 goals and registered a further 11 assists in 32 appearances in all competitions so far this season.

Those displays have helped Lille rise to second in Ligue 1 and as such are on course for a place in next season’s Champions League.

That represents a dramatic turnaround from their performances last season, when they only narrowly avoided relegation.

Pepe’s displays have unsurprisingly attracted attention from rival clubs across Europe, with Arsenal reportedly among a number Premier League sides interested in his services. German champions Bayern Munich have also been credited with an interest.

Lille owner Gerard Lopez confirmed earlier this month that Premier League sides had expressed an interest in the Ivory Coast international but insisted that it will take a bid of at least €50 million (£43m/$56m) to sign him.

Now Pepe has revealed that he could have left the Stade Pierre Mauroy last summer but opted to turn down a move to Lyon in order to stay loyal to Les Dogues, something he reiterated during the January transfer window.

"No, I did not hesitate. At the beginning of the season, I had an important discussion with the coach [Christophe Galtier] where I gave him my word that I was going to stay one more season,” Pepe told Canal+.

“I am someone who stays true to his word and I kept this commitment despite the offer of Olympique Lyonnais, which I declined.

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“It's a choice I do not regret at all. When I start something, I like to finish it. And for the moment with Lille, that's what I try to do - the maximum to help this team. For me, leaving in winter is unacceptable.”

Lille coach Galtier conceded last month that Pepe is likely to leave the club at the end of the season.

However, he insisted that the former Angers player should only join a club playing in the Champions League.