ARSENAL'S Brazilian technical director Edu Gaspar has a mixed record in transfer deals involving his compatriots.
Bringing in veterans Willian and David Luiz did not work at all. But centre back Gabriel Magalhães, acquired from France, has been a resounding success.
And at least as good has been the gamble the club took on Gabriel Martinelli – a teenager who had been nowhere near Brazil’s first division when he was brought across the Atlantic, and who has already made the difficult journey from promise to reality.
Arsenal took a flyer on Martinelli – and are ready to embark on a similar journey with nineteen year old winger Marquinhos, set to be the first signing of the summer transfer window.
Marquinhos has a bit more behind him in Brazilian football than Martinelli did. His club, Sao Paulo, are one of the biggest in the country, with an excellent youth structure.
He started there young – and was already making his way up through the ranks in 2012, when Lucas Moura spearheaded Sao Paulo’s victorious campaign in the Copa Sudamericana, the local Europa League equivalent.
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Last July Marquinhos also had the chance to stun the continent. Just a few days after making his debut off the bench, he was in the starting line up for the trip to Argentina to meet Racing in a knock out game in the Copa Libertadores, South America’s Champions League.
Sao Paulo won 3-1, and Marquinhos was superb, scoring one and helping set up the other two. The Racing defenders could not cope with him.
A quick, stocky, left footed figure, he brought immediate comparisons with former Bayern Munich and Juventus winger Douglas Costa.
Able to operate on either wing, or lead the counter attacking charge through the middle, he showed pace and strength on the ball, plus cool finishing and the ability to pick options around him.
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That night in Argentina last July, it seemed that a star had been born.
Ten months later, many expected that he would be further down the line. It is probably a harsh judgement. Consistency is rare at his age. And two factors have held up his progress.
One is injury. Soon after that night of triumph in Buenos Aires he picked up a knock and was out for over a month, robbing him of momentum.
And then there are the problems that the club has been through. Marquinhos was given his debut by former Chelsea centre forward Hernan Crespo, who found it hard to adapt to the rigours of the Brazilian calendar, with many games and lots of travelling.
He was sacked and new man Rogerio Ceni had to spend the closing stages of the season worrying about a possibility of relegation.
Things have gone better this year, but the coach is still searching for the right balance – and he has frequently chosen to use Marquinhos as an option off the bench rather than as a member of his starting line up.
How to use Marquinhos is a decision that will soon be the responsibility of Mikel Arteta.
He will surely see the Brazilian youngster as one for the future – it will be up to Marquinhos to make his case for early promotion to the Premier League.
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