Marquinhos: Arsenal's new teenage signing could be another Martinelli


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The last time Arsenal went shopping in the Brazilian market for a teenage forward, things went pretty well.

Gabriel Martinelli has gone from a relative unknown playing in his homeland's fourth tier to one the most exciting young attackers in the Premier League, and a full international for Brazil.

Now, Arsenal are looking to repeat the trick as they have brought in another young South American attacker who dreams of one day pulling on the famous Selecao shirt.

The Gunners have now completed a £3 million ($3.8m) deal to bring 19-year-old Marquinhos to the Emirates Stadium, with the starlet having become Mikel Arteta's first signing of the summer window.

So, do Arsenal have another Martinelli on their hands?

Certainly, when it comes to the way they move on the pitch, there are similarities.

If selecting just one word to describe Marquinhos on the football pitch, it would be 'speed'. He is electrifyingly fast, as was illustrated in his first professional start in July 2021.

After three encouraging substitute appearances, then-manager Hernan Crespo named the teenager in his line-up for the second leg of Sao Paulo's last-16 Copa Libertadores tie against Racing Club.

With the first leg having ended in a 1-1 draw, the Tricolor Paulista knew they had to win in Argentina to progress.

Thanks to Marquinhos, they did.

The rookie's pace proved a thorn in the Racing defence, as he consistently stretched the home side's backline in Sao Paulo's 3-1 win.

It was Marquinhos' shot that was tipped onto the post that allowed Emiliano Rigoni to open the scoring with the rebound, before the teenager himself netted his first professional goal after bursting onto a Martin Benitez through-ball.

Rigoni then wrapped up the result, tapping into an empty net from Marquinhos' squared cross, after the north London-bound forward had drawn two defenders across to him.

That was the crowning moment on a journey that began for Marquinhos when he was enrolled into the Sao Paulo academy system at the age of eight.

He almost instantly stood out, and as he worked his way through the age groups he played a key role in a number of title-winning campaigns while earning call-ups to the Brazilian schoolboy sides.

The biggest hint that he might become a truly special player, though, came when he joined-up with the club's Under-20s side, managed by Fenerbahce legend Alex de Souza.

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In just three matches under Alex's watch, Marquinhos scored twice and laid on two assists, despite playing against opponents who were two or three years older than he was.

Alex quickly went to Crespo to recommend the youngster be promoted to the first-team ranks, and Marquinhos was invited to stop training at the club's Cotia academy, and instead join the senior squad at Sao Paulo's Barra Funda training ground, which is located around a five-minute walk away from the house he grew up in.

Training alongside the likes of Dani Alves and Miranda did not seem to faze Marquinhos, who was instructed by Crespo to enjoy himself while also focusing on being able to make diagonal runs from the wing that would end with him in goal-scoring positions inside the penalty area.

His match-winning display against Racing showed that he had listened to his manager's advice, and that it came just 10 days after his professional debut made it all the more impressive.

"Talking about Marquinhos, he made his debut a week ago and tonight he was the protagonist," Crespo said after the Racing win.

"He's a player that was made in Cotia, and when you see him come in and do what he did, it gives you great satisfaction.

"I don't care if you're 40 or 18 – if they train well and I believe they should play, then they play."

That Libertadores win proved to be the highlight of Marquinhos' career at Sao Paulo, though that is not to say that he has underwhelmed when given other opportunities to shine.

He leaves the club having scored four goals and laid on three assists in 41 appearances, though he only averaged 35 minutes on the pitch per outing due to mostly being used a substitute.

While Arsenal fans may make initial comparisons to Martinelli, the fans in Sao Paulo that he is leaving behind instead believe he shares a lot of the same strengths as one of the club's previous academy graduates who also played in the Premier League – Lucas Moura.

Sao Paulo did fight to keep their prized homegrown asset, and attempted to tie him down to an improved contract that would, GOAL can confirm, have seen him earn 13 times his current salary.

The lure of testing himself in Europe, however, proved too strong, and Marquinhos had already travelled to England to finalise his move, with the official announcement now having been made.

With everything now in place, Arsenal fans have a new Brazilian speedster to fall in love with.