Gabriel Martinelli has revealed that Manchester United "never said they wanted to sign me" during four trials with Arsenal's Premier League rivals before he made his breakthrough into the professional game.
Arsenal spent just £6 million ($8m) to bring Martinelli to the Premier League from Brazilian club Ituano in July 2019, and has since emerged as one of the most talented young players in Europe.
The 20-year-old is now a regular in Mikel Arteta's set-up at Emirates Stadium, but his career might have panned out differently had he not had the mental strength to bounce back from a failed audition at Old Trafford while he was still a youth player.
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What's been said?
Martinelli had trials with United throughout his early teenage years, but he claims that they never had any desire to bring him into their senior ranks.
The Brazil U23 international is grateful for the experience he had at Old Trafford, though, as he was able to rub shoulders with a number of high-profile stars and get some insight into what it takes to succeed in English football.
"I actually had four different trials at United when I was 13, 14, 15 and 16," Martinelli has told The Athletic.
"This was in Manchester at the club’s training base, where I played in the same age group as Mason Greenwood and Brandon Williams and I met first-team players, like Zlatan [Ibrahimovic], Paul Pogba, Wayne Rooney and Patrice Evra.
"There was never a moment, though, when they said they wanted me [to sign] there. But it give me a taste and made the adaptation a little easier because I had experienced football in England.
"Even after those trials, I always believed in myself. My mind is always thinking, ‘I can do it'.”
Martinelli's record at Arsenal
Martinelli has already appeared in 70 games across all competitions for Arsenal, scoring 16 goals.
Four of those efforts have come in 2021-22, but he is currently serving a suspension after being sent off in the Gunners' 1-0 win at Wolves on February 10.
Arteta's side followed up that result with a 2-1 victory at home to Brentford and now sit just four points behind fourth-placed Manchester United with three games in hand.
Arsenal are in a good position to qualify for the Champions League, but Martinelli believes the squad is capable of reaching far greater heights in the coming years.
“We are so young,” he said. “A lot of players are 22, 23, 24. We have time to improve and we are going to do that.
"One hundred per cent — we will be one of the best teams in the world.”