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Who is Gabriel Martinelli? Arsenal's Ronaldo-loving £6m Brazilian wonderkid

14:47 BST 02/07/2019
Gabriel Martinelli - Ituano
The 18-year-old Brazilian attacker had a trial at Manchester United and trained but Barcelona but he is now bound for the Emirates

On Tuesday, Arsenal confirmed the acquisition of Gabriel Martinelli – just over two months after Goal revealed that the Brazilian was bound for the Emirates.

The Gunners have paid Ituano FC £6 million ($7.7m) for the 18-year-old forward, who has penned a "long-term" contract with the north London club.

Martinelli is an unfamiliar face to the majority of Arsenal fans. Luckily, Goal is here to give you the lowdown on the club's new signing.

Who is Gabriel Martinelli?

Martinelli is one of the rising stars in Brazilian football, having enjoyed a fine start to his senior career with Ituano.

He first started playing with Corinthians' futsal team at the age of just nine before joining Serie D team Ituano in 2015. He signed his first professional contract two years later.

He made his senior debut in March 2018, coming off the bench against Taboao da Serra at the age of 16 years and nine months, becoming the youngest player to debut for Ituano this century.

His first senior goal also came against Taboao da Serra, in September 2018, and he was promoted permanently into the senior squad ahead of the 2019 Campeonato Paulista, Sao Paulo's state championship.

Ituano reached the quarter-finals and Martinelli ended the competition as the club’s top scorer, finding the net six times during the run to the last eight.

After the competition, Martinelli was named best newcomer, countryside player of the year and was named in the team of the year.

How long have Arsenal wanted him?

Martinelli has been known to Europe’s top clubs for some time and once had a trial for Manchester United.

Real Madrid and Barcelona have also looked at him – with the latter having invited the young forward over to spend some time training with them in Spain.

"It was one of the best experiences I've had in football," said Martinelli. "Besides being one of the biggest clubs in the world, the level of training is very high and it made me grow a lot in football."

Arsenal believe Martinelli has the potential to go to the top, with head of international recruitment Francis Cagigao the driving force behind the deal.

A source confirmed to Goal that the Gunners have scouted Martinelli extensively over the last few months, watching him in Brazil while also compiling a detailed database of his qualities from London Colney using video analysis.

Cagigao – known for his strong contacts in South America – then travelled to Brazil himself to watch the the talented forward on more than one occasion before finalising the transfer.

What are his strengths?

Martinelli is a quick forward who can play across the frontline, even as the central striker.

But his favoured role is wide on the left, where he likes to cut inside onto his right foot to get a shot away or look to create a chance for the striker.

Describing himself, the teenager said: "I play as an attacker, but not necessarily a forward. I consider myself more of the modern style, with speed and a lot of movement without the foot. 

"I really like Cristiano Ronaldo, because I also don't like to play with my back to the defender holding the ball, as in the old fashion forward. But if I have to, I also know how to play like that."

The teenager has an eye for goal, as his record suggests, and Goal understands that Arsenal have been very impressed with the composure he shows on the ball, especially for a player of his age and experience.

He is a ball-carrier, something Arsenal are short of in the squad, and his energy levels are another thing that has caught Arsenal’s eye, with his ability to get up and down the pitch particularly impressive.


Although Martinelli is competent with his left foot, it is still an area where he needs to improve.

The teenager’s preference is to cut inside onto his right when coming in off the wing, which is something defenders are aware of.

Until he gets stronger with his left foot, the opposition full-back will always look to show him out wide where they believe he will be less of a threat.

As you would expect from someone so young, he is not yet fully developed so the physical side of the English game could be a problem during his early days at Arsenal.

The verdict

It’s tough to predict how any player coming to England from abroad will do because there are so many variables you have to consider, especially when they arrive here at such a tender age.

But Arsenal are convinced that Martinelli has what it takes to get to the top and Goal understands there is genuine excitement at the Emirates over the attacker’s imminent arrival.

He will get a chance to train with the senior team in the summer, but whether he goes on the pre-season tour to the United States is down to how he settles and whether he impresses at London Colney.

He will be competing with the players such as Bukayo Saka in the Under-23s, who is another incredible talent and has already featured in the Premier League this season under Emery.

So, Martinelli will have to hit the ground running if he wants to make an immediate impression in north London.