Gabriel Martinelli explains how Arsenal blocked Brazil Under-23 call-up against his wishes

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Arsenal youngster Gabriel Martinelli wanted to be involved with Brazil Under-23 squad in a Pre-Olympic tournament but the Gunners refused to release the player as the competition doesn’t fall within FIFA requirements.

The Gunners signed the 18-year-old from Brazilian side Ituano last summer for a fee of around £6million.

Martinelli has had a fantastic debut season for Arsenal and already has 10 goals and four assists in just 23 appearances for the club.

However, the youngster has yet to declare which nation he will be eligible to play for with his current options being either Brazil or Italy.

Both nations are admirers of Martinelli and Brazil had hoped they could persuade him to wear the green and yellow kit by including him in the Under-23 squad for their pre-Olympic tournament.

However, Arsenal risk the possibility of upsetting Martinelli by rejecting his chance to represent Brazil.

“I said that if it were up to me I would play,” Martinelli told Brazilian outlet UOL Esporte.

“But we already knew it would be difficult.

“It was a time when I was a [Arsenal] starter, and people preferred not to release.”

When asked which nation he wants to represent in the future the young striker kept his options open.

“I have Italian citizenship from my father, because we did a little bit before coming to Arsenal,” he said.

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

“But that’s just the consequence; I have to keep working here at Arsenal, and only then we’ll see what lies ahead.”

Arsenal currently sit 10th in the table and are 10 points off fourth-placed Chelsea.

Instead of being with Brazil’s Under-23 squad Martinelli will now join his team-mates in Dubai for the club’s winter break.

Players currently have free-time until training begins on Friday. It is then expected to last till Tuesday at which point Arsenal will return to England ahead of their match at the Emirates against Newcastle United on February 16.

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta is hoping the warm weather break will be an opportunity for his squad to integrate new players and become a closer unit.

“It’s good to go away,” Arteta said.

“The players have been through a lot.

“The last two or three months have been tough for them, so I want to give them a few days off. Then we’re going to go to Dubai, start working and focus on Newcastle.”

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