Gabriel Martinelli has named Thiago Silva as the toughest opponent he has ever faced. The Arsenal winger and Chelsea defender are both set to put their rivalry aside and join forces for Brazil at the World Cup later this month.
Speaking to Sky Sports, Martinelli showered his national team captain with praise and branded Silva as ‘one of the best defenders in the world. When asked the veteran defender is one of his toughest opponents, the 21-year-old replied: “Yes, of course – he is one of the best defenders in the world as well.
“He is 38, and you see him playing now, it’s unbelievable. We [Arsenal] played against him last week, and you could see his quality, his composure. He is so good, a very good guy off the pitch as well.”
Tite was subject to criticism from large sections of the country’s fanbase for controversially snubbing fan-favourite Gabriel Barbosa for Martinelli. The 21-year-old is yet to start a competitive fixture for his nation, nor has he scored or assisted in his friendly appearances.
He didn’t appear in either of Brazil’s final pair of preparatory friendlies ahead of the World Cup either. On the other hand, Silva’s call-up was nothing out of the ordinary and the 38-year-old is set to captain his country in Qatar.
Martinelli has donned the same jersey as Silva for just 35 minutes in his career after appearing in cameo displays for Brazil against Chile and Japan. The duo won both of those matches – a good omen to take into the World Cup.
While the fellow countrymen haven’t played alongside one another too often, they’re certainly rivals on British soil. Martinelli and Silva have come up against each other three times for Arsenal and Chelsea, with the Gunners winning each of the three meetings.
And, ironically enough, former Tottenham midfielder Jamie O’Hara belives that Silva is the only Blues player who could currently get into Mikel Arteta’s side. Speaking on talkSPORT, he said: “Out of Mason Mount and Gabriel Martinelli, at the moment I’m taking Martinelli, Bukayo Saka over Raheem Sterling. Martin Odegaard, who gets in ahead of him? He’s fantastic.
“Cesar Azpilicueta has been a fantastic player over the years but I think Ben White is ahead of him right now. Everyone’s talking about Chelsea, who have spent a lot of money, £275million.
“They should be challenging for the title. I look at Arsenal’s team and it’s a better side.”