Well that came out of nowhere. According to a number of different Brazilian football reporters and news outlets on Twitter, 26-year-old Flamengo centerback Pablo Marí might soon be an Arsenal player. The reports range from the two clubs working on a transfer to Marí on a plane to London for a medical and have the fee somewhere under €10M. For what it’s worth, there is a picture floating around Twitter which is purportedly Edu Gaspar and Pablo Marí at the airport in Rio de Janeiro together.
So who is Pablo Marí?
He’s a Spanish, left-side centerback who currently plays for Flamengo, the best team in the Brasileirão (the first tier of Brazilian club football) by a solid margin. Before moving to Brazil, he was a Manchester City player from 2016-2019, but he spent his entire tenure at City on loan to various clubs without making any appearances for the Citizens. He played for Girona in the Spanish second division, NAC Breda in the Eredivisie, and Deportivo La Coruña also in the Spanish second division.
The consensus seems to be that he is good in the air but might lack pace. Some descriptions have him as good on the ball, while others say he’s not a great passer. According to one of ESPN’s South American football correspondents, Marí’s ability to organize the defense and play a high line enables Flamengo to play a heavy press, attacking style of football, which sounds a lot like what Mikel Arteta is trying to implement at Arsenal.
Arteta is undoubtedly familiar with Marí’s skill set and abilities from when the two overlapped at Manchester City, so I’d be willing to bet Marí can do the things a centerback needs to do to play in Arteta’s system. Additionally, the last time Edu came back from Brazil with a relatively unknown player, things worked out pretty well. That is, if you think Gabriel Martinelli has worked out at Arsenal.
If you couldn’t tell, I’m willing to give Edu and Arteta the benefit of the doubt on this one, especially if the reported under-€10M price tag is accurate. While that number isn’t chump change, it seems like a low-risk move for Arsenal that could fill a position of need at the club. As I wrote in the transfer rumor roundup, the Gunners probably don’t have the funds for any headline-making transfers without a similarly sized sale, so the bargain bin will have to do. And if Marí doesn’t work out, it’s not as if Arsenal broke the bank to get him.