Great Britain

Gabriel Martinelli blocked by Arsenal from playing for Brazil under-23 squad in pre-Olympic tournament

ARSENAL refused to let Gabriel Martinelli represent Brazil's under-23s at a pre-Olympic tournament - despite the fact he wanted to play.

The 19-year-old has been in scintillating form for the North Londoners this season and was deemed too valuable to let go.

The forward recently became the first teenager to score ten goals in a season for Arsenal since Nicolas Anelka in the 1998/99 season.

And his impressive performances for the Gunners have attracted attention from Brazil.

Having already earned two caps for their under-23s, Martinelli was being lined up for a spot in the pre-Olympic tournament currently running between January 18 until February 9.

But Arsenal refused to let him go which was against the forward's wishes.

Speaking to Brazilian outlet UOL, Martinelli said: "If it was up to me I would play.

"But we knew it would be difficult. It was a time when I was a starter at Arsenal and people preferred not to let me go.

"He (Brazil general coordinator Juninho Paulista) 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."

Martinelli is also eligible to represent Italy given his father's citizenship and he has not ruled out a switch of allegiance.

He added: "I have Italian citizenship from my father.

"So I have the option of playing for Brazil or Italy.

"But that's just a consequence. I have to keep working here at Arsenal, and only then we will see what lies ahead."

Martinelli has scored 10 goals from 23 appearances in all competitions for the Gunners so far this season.

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