The promising young forward was included in Brazil’s 2019 Copa America squad, but could be convinced to play for Italy instead
Gabriel Martinelli has emerged as a promising young talent for Arsenal, with the 18-year-old – who had trials at Manchester United and Barcelona – scoring twice in his first competitive start for the club in a 5-0 demolition of Nottingham Forest in the Carabao Cup.
The Gunners were able to land the forward in 2019 despite interest from a host of other clubs, and his potential hasn’t been overlooked on the international stage.
Though Brazilian-born, Martinelli still has the opportunity to represent Italy in international competition. But what are the rules on switching national allegiances? Goal takes a look.
Which countries are Gabriel Martinelli eligible to play for?
The Arsenal forward was born in the Brazilian city of Guarulhos and possesses Brazilian citizenship, but is eligible for an Italian passport through his father.
Despite being called up to train with the Brazil team by Tite ahead of the 2019 Copa America, he has not made a competitive appearance for the Selecao, and so is still able to switch from playing for Brazil to Italy – who are keen on securing his talents.
Will Gabriel Martinelli switch from Brazil to Italy?
According to FIFA eligibility rules, a player is only locked in for a particular nation when they have played in a competitive senior international fixture – for example, in a qualifier or tournament.
Since Martinelli has yet to make a competitive appearance for Brazil, he is still eligible to play for either Brazil or Italy. He was invited to train with the Brazil squad ahead of Copa America, but this was mainly to boost his experience and he never featured in the competition. And so, the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) still believe that there is time to sway his decision and to convince him to join the Azzurri.
The FIGC have already contacted Martinelli’s representatives about the situation, as the forward still hasn’t ruled anything out.
Italy coach Roberto Mancini has commented on the situation, stating in October 2019: “As for Martinelli, it’s not so easy to apply to play for Italy.
“We need to wait for players with two passports. In the meantime, we’ll continue to exchange [Ciro] Immobile with [Andrea] Belotti.”
They also believe that they will be able to lure Martinelli away from the Selecao by reminding him that he will have to compete against several established forwards already in the team, such as Neymar, Roberto Firmino, Gabriel Jesus and Vinicius Junior.
Additionally, Brazilian Edu – who formerly worked with Tite – is now technical director at Arsenal, and could potentially play a part in convincing Martinelli to remain with the Selecao.
For now, though, Martinelli could still represent Italy – until he features in his first competitive appearance for Brazil.