Football

Mikel Arteta facing Gabriel Martinelli setback as Brazil call-up Arsenal star for Olympic qualifying tournament


Gabriel Martinelli has been selected in Brazil’s Under-23 squad (Picture: Getty)

Mikel Arteta is facing the prospect of an immediate club vs country row after Brazil confirmed their intention to select Gabriel Martinelli in their Under-23 squad ahead of the upcoming Olympic qualifying tournament in Colombia.

The form of the summer signing from Ituano has represented one of the most encouraging aspects of a turbulent season for the Gunners.

Martinelli, the least heralded of five summer signings made by now former head coach Unai Emery, has scored eight goals in all competitions this season and was recently rewarded with his first Brazilian U23 cap.

The Olympic qualifying tournament takes place between January 18 and February 9, while the final squad must be finalised by December 27, after which a total of five alterations can be made up until January 3.

Martinelli, along with Aston Villa’s Douglas Costa, has made the provisional list and his potential participation would see him miss Premier League games against Sheffield United, Chelsea and Burnley.

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However, given the pre-qualifying tournament takes place on dates not recognised by FIFA, clubs are not obliged to release their players.

With Martinelli, who is a doubt for the Boxing Day clash against Bournemouth with a hamstring strain, having emerged as a key first team player, Arteta faces an immediate test of his man management skills.

The 18-year-old made his first Brazil Under-23 appearance last month against USA, but subsequently revealed he could yet pledge his international allegiance to Italy.

‘I’m Brazilian, of course everyone wants to play with that yellow shirt, listen to their people singing. But I can play for Italy too,’ he said.

‘I have nothing decided. Of course I want to play for Brazil, but I haven’t defined it yet. It can be one or the other.’

MORE: Gabriel Martinelli explains how Manchester United helped prepare him for life at Arsenal

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