Martinelli: the new Cristiano Ronaldo? Or the new Robinho?

How many times have we all watched Gabriel Martinelli’s goal against Chelsea?

I’ve replayed it at least a dozen times and I know some supporters have watched it even more than that.

We were down a man and down a goal when our young Britalian* picked up the ball just outside our penalty area, ran the length of the pitch and calmly slotted it past Chelsea’s stupidly named ‘keeper, Kepa. Along the way Martinelli threw a voodoo hex on Kante forcing him to slip at the crucial moment when he might have intercepted the youngster’s run.

It was a stunning goal combining speed, strength, control and a degree of composure seldom seen in players at the tender age of 18. But those of us who have been watching his outings for Arsenal this season will not have been completely surprised.


He has looked like a class act every time he’s stepped on the pitch and is already our second top scorer after Aubameyang despite having only five starts and eight substitute appearances.

This is normally the point at which fans, media pundits and ex-players go around saying how it’s important not to get carried away, that we mustn’t start over-hyping the young man, that plenty of young would-be stars shine brightly for a while before fizzling out.

Well to hell with that.

I LOVE this guy and I am more excited about him than any young Arsenal player since Cesc Fabregas.

Even before that stunner at Stamford Bridge I found myself thinking unthinkable comparisons with Ronaldo and Gareth Bale: players who could change a game all on their own.

Like Ronaldo, Martinelli seems comfortable on either foot and knows how to use his head. Like Bale he can tear down the wing and deliver superb crosses as well as getting in the box at the right time to score himself.

At 5ft 9in he is shorter than both Ronaldo (6ft 2in) and Bale (6ft 1in), but he has a great leap and will only get stronger as his body matures in the next couple of years.

We have had young players make a splash early in their Arsenal careers and never live up to our hopes and expectations (David Bentley anyone?).  Beyond Arsenal there are many examples of “the next Pele” whose career ends up as a let-down (like Martinelli, Robinho came out of Brazil with a ton of hype but despite spells at Real Madrid and Manchester City the magic never quite took flight).

But there seems to be something different about Martinelli.

There may be a clue to what that “ingredient X” is in the interview that Arseblog conducted with a Brazilian football journalist in his Arsecast podcast on Friday. The journo said that even though Martinelli was playing his football at a fourth tier Brazilian side, he stood out from an early age because of his dedication and seriousness of purpose.

He does not drink alcohol or even fizzy soft drinks apart from water. He started learning English while still in Brazil and had already set his heart on the Premier League. Since arriving at Arsenal he is the first into training and is utterly single-minded about improving his skills.

It’s the sort of dedication that reminds me of Dennis Bergkamp. When he joined the jolly band of alcoholic, chain-smoking, drug-toting cavaliers at Highbury in the 1990s they were stunned to see this world class star staying behind every day for extra practice. Along with Arsene Wenger’s arrival, it’s not an exaggeration to say that Dennis’s example helped completely change the culture at the club.

Martinelli needs to get plenty more game time for the rest of this season. In my eyes he is already ahead of Pepe, Nelson and Saka in the pecking order and arguably should even be selected ahead of the non-scoring Lacazette.

That said, we also need to manage him properly and not burn him out or place expectations on him that he can’t possibly deliver. Right now though he looks capable of shouldering any responsibility we place on him.

It also behoves the club to lock him up contractually for as long as possible, because if he continues this rate of progress he will become one of the most sought-after young players in the world.

Am I getting “over my skis” here? Am I buying into the hype and ignoring the usual hurdles that get in the way of a promising youngster becoming a star (injuries, ‘second season syndrome,’ fame going to their head and so on)?

What do you think?

And if he does develop as we hope, which players’ styles (past or present) do you think he’s most likely to echo?


*Apparently Martinelli has not yet decided whether he wants to play his international football for Brazil (where he was born and raised) or for Italy (his father has Italian heritage as the surname indicates).


30 Responses to Martinelli: the new Cristiano Ronaldo? Or the new Robinho?

  1. LBG says:

    Comment on your post when I’ve read it, Rocky.
    Pablo Marni… ….hope he settles in quick.

  2. LBG says:

    Mari, Mari, Mari!

  3. LBG says:

    Ingredient(s) X – great leap and eyes open as he heads ball, but, even more important in the right place at the right time for tap ins.
    Long may he prosper and may we stick fingers up to any so called bigger Club wanting to rob us of him. 100m buy out clause.

  4. LB says:


    Ok, just one more quick view of the goal and I am good to go, for a few hours anyway.

  5. Sue says:

    Just the one, LB?! 😂 I downloaded MOTD yesterday… and any spare moment I had, I put it on… love the celebration and how Guendouzi appears roaring!! 👌

  6. RC78 says:

    Excellent post and agree that he is our most exciting young player and needs to be managed properly.

    I think he needs to be played on the wings still and maybe needs to become even better at being a winger in the next 2 years before slowly being moved towards the centre. He s more mature than CR7 at the same age and I think he reads and understands the game better but I don’t think he will develop CR7 physical abilities so I d liken him more to players like Griezmann and Salah. If he becomes as good as Salah, we will all be smiling 👍

    With him growing, I have less fear about Auba leaving because I think his game links up even better with Lacazette…

    Now as Auba returns, I think we need to drop Ozil to the bench and play Laca as a 10 and I am certain that Martinelli, Laca, Pepe – Auba would be a quatuor that many teams would like to avoid

  7. RC78 says:

    I think Mari is the cheap back up. If it works out good, if not we don’t have to keep him. Smart move by Arteta

  8. JM says:

    Regarding Martinelli, for past players I would name 2:

    1. The original Brazilian Ronaldo, R9, ‘Il Fenomeno’, one of the greatest and most complete forwards of all time.

    2. The Italian ‘fantasista’ Alessandro Del Piero, the 9 1/2 or supporting striker, one of the best Italian players of all time.

    From current players, I hope he will be as good as (if not better than) Kylian Mbappé in the future and be challenging him for the annual Ballon d’Or and World Best player award in the years to come.

  9. allezkev says:

    Yep, definitely getting over your skis there Rocky and a great read to boot, you carry on in that vein mate.

    Mari reminds me of BFG, reads the game with no frills defending, so are we in the process of signing a Big Flippin’ Spaniard?

  10. RockyLives says:

    Del Piero was a lovely player to watch.

    If Martinelli ends up like Ronaldo Mk 1 or Del Piero I’ll take that 😀

  11. RC78 says:

    @JM – I think KM7 (Mbappe) is more like R9 (Il Fenomeno) and Martinelli will be more like CR7 but closer to Salah/Griezzmann or Pedro when he was at his peak at Barcelona.

    Martinelli is a lot more direct than Del Piero was…if we are going to go in the Del Piero days, then maybe Martinelli is maybe more like Raul.

    And for sure, Mbappe will be the more complete player barring injuries. The guy can play on the wing and as CF but he is faster and more lethal already and he will only get better and he also has a very good eye for passes. I think Mbappe is the heir of Pele and Ronaldo (the Brazilian one) and I think that as far as young players go, maybe Haaland is the one that could match him in scoring in the next few years once Messi and Ronaldo retire.

  12. fred1266 says:

    Flamengo defender Pablo Mari arrived in London ahead of an anticipated move to Arsenal.

    Mari is expected to join the Gunners on loan with an option to buy – which is reportedly set at £7.5million – after arriving at Heathrow Airport with Arsenal technical director Edu on Saturday.

    The 26-year-old is set to become Mikel Arteta’s first signing since taking over as head coach in December.

    Mari joined Manchester City in 2016 but never played for the first team, leaving for Flamengo last July after loan stints at Girona, NAC Breda and Deportivo La Coruna.

    The 26-year-old was a key figure under Jorge Jesus, who led the Rio de Janeiro giants to the Campeonato Brasileiro and Copa Libertadores titles.

    He also featured when Flamengo lost the Club World Cup final against Liverpool 1-0 after extra time.

    Arsenal have been keen to bolster their defensive options following injuries to Calum Chambers, Kieran Tierney and Sead Kolasinac.

  13. fred1266 says:

    Gabrielle Paulista anyone, having a great game against Barcelona

  14. Sue says:

    Some win for Valencia, Fred 👌

  15. RA says:

    Nice one, Rocker,

    You have written very emotively about Gabriel and more power to your elbow. I totally agree.

    You have already mentioned that there have been many young tyros slated to become the next ‘big player’, and in such a short space of time, Gabriel seems to have all the hallmarks of someone headed for the top, but anyone keeping their fingers crossed in case it all goes wrong can be forgiven.

    For example, a player who crept into the hearts of many Gooners, Jack Wilshire, at the same age, seemed to have the world at his feet, literally, and even had Arsene believing that he could go to the very top, only for late developing physical problems to ensure he will only have a passing mention in football history.

    Can lightning strike twice at the home of football? I hope not, and I really believe you have called it right – Gabriel could be the next big thing — but ….. let’s see how long Kroenke resists the lure of a big money transfer for him, from the usual culprits, or that Gabriel does not have his head turned by one of the top Spanish or Italian clubs.

    [Transfer Markt – usually pretty accurate in stats and personal attributes say that Gabriel is 1.8m tall (which converts into 5.91feet — which converts into 5′ 11″ to the nearest inch).

    Not really a short ass after all. 🥺

  16. RA says:

    Hi Fred,

    I was really disappointed that Arsenal sold Paulista.

    He is better than anyone we currently have at CB, in my opinion.

  17. Sue says:

    Bowen to score against the Chavs?! I bloody well hope so!

  18. Sue says:

    Atkinson to officiate, with Dean on var at the Vitality. Will they screw us over again?! Hmmm….

  19. jjgsol says:

    I think we can expect Martinelli to start getting extra attention from defenders and midfielders and to be chopped down unceremoniously time and time again with little or no protection from the men on black.

  20. fred1266 says:

    So true RA when he was sold I think we were finally starting to see the best of him

  21. fred1266 says:

    Even the midfielder better than our current CB look how good xhaka did

  22. Sue says:

    RC.. So, it appears Cavani has ‘chosen’ Atletico over Chelsea. I would’ve hated seeing him in a Chav shirt!

    Where have these Lemar rumours come from??

  23. RockyLives says:

    I can’t see us signing Lemar in this window.

    If we get a CB in on loan or a cheap deal (Mari?) that will be it.

  24. LBG says:

    Not convinced about Lemar anyway, Rocky. Classic spoilt brat, without the youth of Anelka. And do we need another wide attacker?

  25. RockyLives says:

    Exactly LBG
    Martinelli, Pepe, Saka, Auba, Eddie… where does Lemar fit in?

    We have much more serious needs in other positions.

  26. Sue says:

    I agree… I was just saying, as some gooners are convinced we’re actually signing him!! 🤪 No chance!

  27. Mikel A says:

    Martinelli is the new Samantha Fox. Sex on legs.

  28. RockyLives says:

    Mikel 😀

    I can now guess at your age with probably uncanny accuracy 😀

  29. Rasp says:

    Mari has now risen above 50% likely to come by my estimation … I think that would be a very decent signing

  30. RockyLives says:

    New (short) Post

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