7 African players signed by Arsenal before Pepe, first joined 62 years ago

Ivory Coast international Nicolas Pepe has completed a £72 million move to Arsenal to become the Premier League club’s new record signing, a feat which was previously held by another African player he will be linking up with for the coming season.

The 24-year-old attacker becomes the 21st player from Africa officially signed by the Gunners whose first player from the continent arrived the London club way back in 1957.

Daniel Le Roux – 1957

Le Roux played for Queen’s Park in his native South Africa before signing for Arsenal in February 1957 when the Gunners featured in the English First Division, making five appearances in the 1957–58 season before returning to South Africa to play for Durban City.

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Ismael Bennacer – 2015

Four years before his inspired form helped Algeria to the Africa Cup of Nations title and earned him the competition’s award as the AFCON best player in 2019, Bennacer signed for Arsenal as an 18-year-old in 2015 and made his senior debut in October of that year during a League Cup fourth round match.

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He left the club same year and now features in Serie A for Empoli.

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Kolo Toure – 2002

Toure was the first ever Ivorian player signed by Arsenal from ASEC Mimosas for £150,000 in February 2002, with the defender signing a long-term contract after impressing greatly in a trial at the club.

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He would go on to make 326 appearances for the Gunners over seven seasons in North London, playing a part in the club’s Invincibles campaign in 2004 and winning two FA Cup titles as well before leaving in 2009.

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Kanu Nwankwo – 1999

Pepe has signed for Arsenal on the same day Super Eagles legend Kanu is celebrating his 43rd birthday, with the former Nigerian forward signing for the Gunners in February 1999 and making 197 appearances for the North London side.

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During his time at Arsenal, Kanu helped the club win the Premier League title two times in 2002 and 2004 as well as the FA Cup in 2002 and 2003. He also lifted the Community Shield at the start of his first full season at Arsenal in 1999.

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Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – 2018

Before Pepe, the Gabonese striker became Arsenal’s record signing when he joined in January 2018 from Borussia Dortmund for £56 million.

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He has since been justifying the fee by delivering in front of goal, scoring 41 goals in 65 appearances in all competitions so far.

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Alex Iwobi – 2015

Nephew to Super Eagles legend Austin Okocha, Iwobi was promoted to the senior team of Arsenal in 2015 having first joined the club in 2004 while still in primary school, though, he came close to being let go by the Gunners in 2010 and 2012.

Having worked his way through the ranks at youth level, Iwobi made his first team debut in October 2015 in the same League Cup fourth round match against Sheffield Wednesday which Bennacer also made his first appearance for the club.

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The Super Eagles star has since made 149 appearances so far for the Emirates Stadium outfit, scoring 15 goals in that time and winning the 2017 FA Cup, the Community Shield in 2015 and 2017 while also helping the club to the 2019 Europa League final.

Gervinho – 2011

Pepe is not the first player or Ivorian Arsenal will have signed from Lille as the Gunners previously brought Gervinho over from the French club in a deal believed to have cost £10.8 million, with the winger being handed the number 27 shirt previously worn by another Ivorian, Emmanuel Eboue.

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Gervinho appeared in 63 games for the Gunners in his two seasons at the Emirates Stadium, scoring 11 goals before leaving for Serie A side, AS Roma.

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Will Pepe surpass the achievements of these fellow Africans at Arsenal during his time at the club?

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