Arsenal youngster Martinelli asked to snub Brazil for Italian national team

Gabriel Martinelli, ArsenalGetty

The Italian Football Federation (FIGC) has made contact with representatives of Arsenal forward Gabriel Martinelli with a view to having the young Brazilian snub the country of his birth and instead pledge his allegiance to the Italy national team.

Martinelli was born in the Brazilian city of Guarulhos in the state of Sao Paolo, but it has emerged that he is eligible for an Italian passport through his father, and the Azzurri are keen to sign up the 18-year-old as he has not yet turned out for the Selecao.

Brazil national team coach Tite did actually call-up the youngster to join pre-tournament training ahead of the 2019 Copa America, which Brazil went on to win, but the trip was merely to have Martinelli and a select few other starlets get experience in a national team set-up.

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Whether the Gunners' raw talent will be interested in making a switch to Italy remains to be seen, but the FIGC will no doubt point to the plethora of forwards already at Tite's disposal – Neymar, Roberto Firmino, Gabriel Jesus, Vinicius Junior, Douglas Costa and Lucas Moura to name just a few.

Tite's former right-hand man, Edu, is now director of football at Arsenal, could well step in to convince the player to reject Italy's proposal, though it is understood that Martinelli has not yet ruled anything out.

Should he accept, he would become the third Brazil-born member of the Azzurri squad, joining Chelsea duo Emerson Palmieri and Jorginho.

Italy coach Roberto Mancini, meanwhile, has called for patience regarding the situation, stating on Monday: "As for Martinelli, it’s not so easy to apply to play for Italy.

“We need to wait for players with two passports. In the meantime, we’ll continue to exchange [Ciro] Immobile with [Andrea] Belotti."

Jorginho Italy 2019

Martinelli started his career as part of Corinthians' futsal team before breaking through to regular football and securing a move to Ituano in 2015. Trials at Manchester United and Barcelona followed before he signed his first professional contract with Ituano in 2017.

It was reported shortly after that as many as 25 clubs were interested in signing him such was his obvious potential, but Arsenal ultimately won the race to sign him and he went on to score on his non-competitive debut – a 3-0 pre-season victory over Colorado Rapids.

The attacker has been used sparingly by Unai Emery in the Premier League, making just two appearances as a substitute. 

In other competitions, however, Martinelli has shone for the Gunners, scoring two goals in his first competitive start for the club in a 5-0 mauling of Nottingham Forest in the Carabao Cup.

Following the match, Emery said: “He's hungry, he is very humble and he fights. I told him to have patience for his opportunity. He did that and he deserved [these goals].”

A second start followed, this time in Arsenal's 4-0 win over Standard Liege in the Europa League. Martinelli scored yet another brace in that clash, while also registering his first assist for the club as Dani Ceballos scored the Gunners' fourth of the night.