by Tony Attwood
So Arsenal have made a signing: Gabriel Martinelli.
That makes it one out of 72 rumoured signings so far in this transfer window that has come true. A success rate for the rumour mongers of 1.4%. Not that good so far.
The original claim that Arsenal was interested came from Yahoo Esportes, and here is that historic report in full: “Pretendido por 25 clubes, Martinelli tem acordo verbal com o Arsenal.”
That was it – the complete story with no details in mid March. Two websites then went with that story in that month, turning it into a definite report that he was indeed going to sign: The Daily Mail and TheTopFlight.com both making the claim on 29 March. There may have been others – but those are the two we picked up. So congratulations to them on getting it right.
Martinelli – now 18 – started out playing for Corinthians at the age of nine, and then at 13 moved to Ituano. Both of these clubs play in the regional league of Sao Paulo – effectively the fourth division of Brazilian football. Also in that league are reserve teams from some of the more famous clubs from the Brazilian national league.
It is reported that from around the age of 15 he was being invited for trials with major Brazilian clubs, as well as Barcelona. At the time when tales of his signing remained just rumours alongside all the fake stories that circulate, the Mail was saying that Arsenal ‘beat 25 other teams’ to the young player’s signature.
All in all Martinelli has scored 10 goals in 31 senior games and it is reported that he also had a trial with Manchester United last season, but this did not result in a signing. It has also been reported over time that clubs such as Palmeiras, Flamengo, Watford, Crystal Palace, and Leeds United, have all expressed an interest in the player.
However Arsenal now have the problem of getting a permit for him to play. As things stand he does not have the right to work in the UK, although while the UK remain members of the EU he could obtain that right if he could get himself an EU passport (an Italian one is being spoken of in some quarters) and quickly get to England. If he does not get that by the time the UK leave the EU then his future would look much more tangled, as a central part of the campaigns to remove the UK from the EU have been to do with stopping foreigners coming to the UK. Under current rules the player would have to be playing regularly for the Brazil national team to qualify, although of course no one knows how any of these regulations will be interpreted after the EU leave Britain (or is it the other way round, I get confused).
Speaking after the deal was announced Martinelli’s agent, Marcos Casseb, said in an interview with Globo Esporte, “To be honest we expected this to happen. His evolution since last year is very fast, he is above average. The initial planning is for him to go straight to Europe.”
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In an interview the player said, “I model my game on Cristiano Ronaldo. He is a player who works hard, pushing himself to the next level. Always in the run for titles and individual trophies.
“This is a dream since I was a child and also my family’s dream for me to be playing in Europe and playing for a big team like Arsenal. I am going to take this opportunity.”
So rapid has the player’s development been that Martinelli was then given the chance to train with the senior Brazil national team in preparation for the Copa America. If he does manage to become a regular for that team while still a teenager that probably would overcome the regulations that are intended to restrict access to the UK for foreign nationals.
Martinelli was born in Guarulhos, the second city of the state of São Paulo. He started his career in 2010, playing futsal (a variation on indoors five a side football) for Corinthians and signed his first contract on 4 November 2017 making his debut on 17 March 2018 coming on as a late sub aged 16.
He scored his first senior goal on 8 September 2018, and was promoted to the first team for the 2019 season, becoming the club’s top scorer in Serie D, Ituano’s league. On 20 May 2019, Martinelli was called up by Brazil national team manager to join in the preparations for the 2019 Copa America.
His awards so far have all come in the Campeonato Paulista where he has won Best Newcomer, Countryside Player of the Year and as a member of Team of the Year.
As for his team, Ituano, they were founded in 1947 by railway workers and by 1978 the club was playing in the third tier of the São Paulo state championship. They moved up to the second division in 1989 and won the league in 2002. In 2014, Ituano won the Campeonato Paulista.
So he is now our player. The issue is, will he go on loan or will he join the under 23 squad with Arsenal. Much depends on that passport issue, for without an Italian passport before the UK leave the EU, he might not be be allowed into the country. But arrangements as to how the borders will be managed after Britain leaves the EU seem rather hazy and it might well be he can find a country road in Ireland and drive across the border there without anyone noticing.