Brazil national team co-ordinator Juninho Paulista has held talks with Gabriel Martinelli in a bid to secure the international future of the highly-regarded Arsenal forward.
Martinelli, 18, is the subject of a tug of war between Brazil and Italy over his international future. The Arsenal striker was born in Sao Paulo state but is eligible for an Italian passport through his passport.
As yet Martinelli has not made a decision over who he will represent and Brazil’s hopes of securing his allegiance took something of a blow when Arsenal declined to release the forward, already established as a starter under Mikel Arteta, for a pre-Olympics tournament.
Martinelli could be called up by Brazil for this summer’s Olympic games, where squads are predominantly made up for Under-23 players, but could have a role with the senior team before then.
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“He’s a very focused boy,” Juninho told Brazilian publication O Globo. “So he is achieving things in a short time.
“He exceeded all expectations. Selection is a consequence. He has already been called up for the Olympics, but Arsenal did not release.
“He’s on our radar. You have to be patient.
“Today, he is a [senior] selection player for what he presents.”
Martinelli has scored 10 goals and provided four assists in 23 appearances for Arsenal in all competitions this season and before their winter break Arteta took the notable decision of dropping club record signing Nicolas Pepe to make room in his starting XI for the youngster.
“For me the biggest [attribute] is his hunger, his attitude and his willingness,” Arteta said on Monday. “After that obviously he’s a player that is a threat on goal, he can finish, he can run in behind and he’s a fighter.
“But the biggest attribute is his personality when he’s on that pitch. It doesn’t matter what type of game it is, he just wants to win and do his best every single day.”