The secrets behind Nicolas Pepe’s rise to the top: From a tough childhood to playing in goal
Premier League New Arsenal record signing
Nicolas Pepe has become Arsenal‘s record-signing after a big-money move from Lille.
The Ivorian has joined the Gunners for 80 million euros and is set to form a fearsome front three with Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
However, his current situation is a far cry from the conditions he grew up in, which played a key part in who he is today both on and off the field.
“My family emigrated from Ivory Coast to France in 1995 and used to tell me about how difficult that was, especially when we were at school. They used to tell me that we had everything and they used to have nothing,” he told Arsenal‘s official website.
“They would tell us stories of how they’d walk 10 kilometres barefoot and we were lucky to be able to go to school by bus. When we grew up, my mother and father stopped working and came to live me with just because of football, and just to make sure my dreams came true.
“They were there during the toughest times and the best times and they are still here right now. 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.”
Pepe also recalled how he made the move up the field from goalkeeper to the attacker he is today.
“When I was a goalkeeper, I think we used to win six or 7-0 and I asked if we could change it so I could play on the pitch because I was bored in the goal.
“So then I swapped and moved on the pitch and I would even score.
“Playing in goal back then helps me a lot now. I know how a goalkeeper moves in relation to the position of the ball. That means I have a different way of analysing the position of the goalkeeper perhaps in comparison to others who might not understand how a goalkeeper moves,” he revealed.
The 24-year-old says that his biggest influence in football terms was his straight-talking coach Abdel Bouhazama during his time at Guingamp.
“Bouhazama was a big influence in terms of my training,” he states.
“He is a coach who meant a lot to me, not just in terms of football but in terms of everyday life. He taught us a lot, both to me and the young people at the training centre.
“I think he teaches them a lot because, as he says, there is more to life than football, there is also life.”
Finally, he mentioned the tough choice he faced this summer with several clubs interested in him.
“My family, my agents and I talked a lot about it during the Africa Cup of Nations.
“It was so important for me to make the right decision in the next stage of my career, and I’m convinced that Arsenal is the right choice,” he concluded.