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Martinelli reveals Arsenal blocked Brazil U23 call-up

The winger was left disappointed after the Gunners decided to keep him out of a pre-Olympic tournament.

Martinelli is being eyed for a spot with Brazil's U23s ahead of the Olympics.
Martinelli is being eyed for a spot with Brazil's U23s ahead of the Olympics.
Image: Shaun Botterill

GABRIEL MARTINELLI SAYS that Arsenal blocked a call-up to Brazil’s U23 squad despite the attacker’s desire to represent his country.

The teenage star has been fantastic for Arsenal this season, having reached double-digits across all competitions since his move to the Premier League.

Indeed, Martinelli’s goalscoring exploits have made him the first Arsenal teenager since Nicolas Anelka in the 1998-1999 season to score 10 goals in a season.

As a result, he has earned interest from his national team program, with the teenager being eyed for a spot with Brazil’s U23s ahead of this summer’s Olympic tournament.

Martinelli has already earned two caps for the young Selecao side, and was invited to turn out again as part of a pre-Olympic tournament that runs from 18 January until 9 February.

Arsenal decided not to release the 19-year-old, however, as they considered the burgeoning starlet a key part of the squad.

The Gunners were going through a rough spell recently, in no short measure due to the suspension of Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang, with Martinelli capably stepping in to justify the Gunners’ decision.

However, the attacker was left disappointed by the decision, making it known that he would have preferred to join his national team.

“I said that if it was up to me I would play,” Martinelli told UOL.

“But we knew it would be difficult. It was a time when I was a starter at Arsenal and people preferred not to let me go.

“He (Brazil general coordinator Juninho Paulista) called me, spoke to me and congratulated me on what I’m doing. I haven’t been called up yet, but I’m very calm about it.

“We talked a little after he went to the national team. He called me, said that this was the opportunity of my life, that I should give my best because things would go well.”

Martinelli is also eligible to represent Italy due to his father’s citizenship and, while his focus has been on Brazil, he did not rule out a potential switch.

“I have Italian citizenship from my father,” he said. “So I have the option of playing for Brazil or Italy. But that’s just a consequence. I have to keep working here at Arsenal, and only then we will see what lies ahead.”

Arsenal currently sit 10th in the Premier League with the club’s next match coming against Newcastle on 16 February.

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