Gabriel Martinelli arrived at Arsenal in the summer of 2019, the 17-year-old labelled ‘one for the future’. Arsenal had formalised the deal as early as March, the only hold-up being the wait for his Italian passport.
25 clubs had been interested in signing him, said the reports in Brazil. Eight in Brazil and 17 in Europe. Manchester United and Barcelona both had him on trial but never made an offer.
“I spent 15 days [with Barcelona], which was the time I had on vacation from the U17s, which ended in October,” Martinelli explained. “As Copinha did not start until January, we would train in December. And November I had free.
“Barcelona invited me to train with them in La Masía but afterwards, they didn’t want to do anything with me. They didn’t tell me anything. I went back to Ituano, I played Copinha and then I came to Arsenal.
“I played Copinha and very quickly the São Paulo championship,” Martinelli recalled. “I did well and had some offers. Arsenal was the one who made a firmer proposal with serious planning. I was offered the chance to train with the first team.
“We did not think twice. It was my dream and my parents’ dream that one day I could come to play in Europe. I didn’t think twice because Arsenal is one of the biggest clubs in Europe.
If Barcelona weren’t interested then, it seems Real Madrid could well be now. They were linked with an interest before Martinelli’s last contract extension and his form has only improved since.
Back then, the rumours didn’t bother the winger. “Nothing has come to me,” Martinelli said. I am focused here doing my job at Arsenal and my head is here.”
Little seems to have changed on that front. Chelsea have been strongly linked but Martinelli looks happy to extend with Arsenal.
Since the day he arrived, Martinelli has consistently said he wants to win titles with Arsenal and has his eyes set on becoming the club’s captain at some point in the future.
“Arsenal are a giant team. If I can, I’ll stay here my whole life,” Martinelli said in March.
“I want to conquer things, I already said, I want to stay here and win titles, with this wonderful crowd, my teammates.
“We have a young group, we have a lot of time ahead of us, players with a lot of quality, I think we will achieve great things.”
Martinelli’s heart – and his head – seem very firmly planted in north London.