Europe’s major clubs devote a lot of energy to scouting, but no matter how well informed they are, every investment they make on a player is a gamble.
Take Arsenal’s signing of Gabriel Martinelli in 2019. While there was no doubting the then 18-year-old’s talent, the fact was that when the north London club came in for him he had yet to play a single game in a national league, not even in Serie D, Brazil’s fourth tier.
Three years on and that gamble has paid off, with the Gunners sitting atop the Premier League and the Brazilian attacker playing a leading role in their success.
Martinelli’s match-winning form with Arsenal could also help him with his international career, a subject close to his heart. After winning Olympic gold in Tokyo and featuring in the last few matches of the qualifying competition for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, he is certainly in the thoughts of Brazil coach Tite.
Though the player missed the last two warm-up matches, Tite has made it clear that he has yet to finalise the squad, that every available player is under consideration, and that club form will have a big part to play in the decisions he makes.
Martinelli is well aware that earning a place in the side is no easy task, even if the coach is considering taking as many as eight forwards to Qatar. “If you look at our attack, we have Vinicius Junior, Raphinha, Antony, Rodrygo, Cunha, Gabriel Jesus, Firmino, Richarlison and a few more besides,” said Martinelli. “They’re all really good players.
“I’m staying calm though. I’m trying to give my all for Arsenal and do all I can to help the team, which I think will help me with A Seleção. It’s Tite’s decision and we all have to respect it, whether we make the squad or not.”
One thing in Martinelli’s favour is the flexibility he showed during his settling-in period at Arsenal. “I can play in all three positions up front,” he explained. “Last season, I even played wingback sometimes. I’ve been telling people at the club that I can even play in goal.
“The important thing is just to be in the team and to make the World Cup squad. That’s my goal, and I don’t care whether I play on the right, left or down the middle.”
The squad for Qatar will be revealed shortly. Martinelli has no idea what that announcement or the long English season will bring. One thing he can be sure of is that London is now his home and he has no shortage of friends there.