Gabriel Martinelli has confirmed that Arsenal blocked him from joining up with Brazil’s under=23 for the Olympic qualification tournament which is currently taking place in Colombia.
The 18-year-old, who also holds Italian citizenship, was apparently quite keen on playing for his country but accepted the Gunners decision given the competition falls outside the usual international breaks.
“I said that if it was up to me I would play,” he told UOL (translated by Sport Witness).
“We already knew it would be difficult. It was a time when I was starter at Arsenal, and people preferred not to let me go.”
So far Brazil seem to be coping well without Martinelli. They’ve won all four of their opening group games and will face Argentina, Colombia and Uruguay in a second group stage. Only the top two will secure a place in Tokyo.
If they do qualify and Martinelli gets selected for the tournament proper, it means he’ll likely miss pre-season with Arsenal and the opening games of the new campaign.
A call-up to Brazil’s senior side could also be on the cards. Having arrived in England under the radar, his recent exploits have suddenly earned him praise and attention from those in right places.
It probably helps that Edu’s replacement as Brazil’s technical director, Juninho Paulista, used to be the president of Martinelli’s former club, Ituano.
“He [Juninho] already 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. He was a fundamental guy in the four years that I spent at Ituano.”