And there we have it, Gabriel Martinelli is Arsenal’s first signing of the summer window. Not quite as flashy as some of the names being bandied about lately, see e.g. Kieran Tierney, Wilfried Zaha, but a signing nonetheless. The 18-year old Brazilian attacker recently earned a call-up to the full national team training camp ahead of the Copa America (but did not make the final squad). He joins the Gunners for a reported fee of £5.1M.
Since making his professional debut at 16 years, 9 months old, Martinelli has scored 10 goals in 34 games for Ituano FC, a side in the Campeonato Paulista, the Sao Paolo state league. According to scouting reports, he played most frequently as second striker but is also comfortable playing winger, a position of dire need for Unai Emery.
I’ll square with you, I hadn’t heard of Martinelli until Arsenal.com announced his signing. So the first question was, “who is he?” The second question, as it is with every young, non-EU signing, was “can he get a UK work permit?” As a Brazilian passport holder, his odds aren’t great. Fortunately, according to reports, Martinelli is close to getting his Italian passport, which circumvents those regulations.
It isn’t clear whether Martinelli will be with the senior side or one of the youth sides come the start of the season. Something tells me the Gunners wouldn’t make their first transfer announcement with the new kit for a player who is going to disappear into the academy system. I expect him to get at least a shot with the big boys.
Will he make an immediate impact at Arsenal? Maybe, maybe not. Is this the kind of signing Arsenal need to be making? Absolutely.
Two essential facts about Arsenal have been well-documented both here at TSF and across the internet: the club needs to get younger and it doesn’t have much money to spend to do that. Martinelli is a promising player that Arsenal have signed young enough that he hasn’t become prohibitively expensive. Of course, he could turn out to be a total flop, but that is the type of risk that the Gunners have to take right now. Then again, he could also be a superstar in the making. Let’s hope it’s Door B.