Former Manchester United and England defender Rio Ferdinand believes that Arsenal winger Gabriel Martinelli is the best young player at the club. The Brazilian spent much of last year struggling with a troublesome knee injury but has impressed with his on-pitch showings since returning to the first-team fray.
Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith-Rowe are two youngsters that have starred for Arsenal since the beginning of the campaign, with the latter’s stock rising in recent weeks following a string of quality performances.
Meanwhile, Saka was rewarded for his strong form with a debut England call-up earlier in the season.
However, Ferdinand has claimed that Martinelli is Arsenal’s top prospect.
The 42-year-old also suggested that the club have their young stars to thank for helping to turn their on-pitch fortunes around.
“Arsenal have really benefited from investing and believing in younger players,” Ferdinand said in a video posted to his YouTube channel Five.
“I think Saka, Emile Smith Rowe, they’ve been outstanding. [Joe] Willock at times has come in and done stuff, same for [Ainsley] Maitland-Niles.
“Without these young players coming in and holding the fort, with all that’s going on, I don’t know where Arsenal would be and the fans would be in the doldrums. Martinelli, for me, is the best one.”
Ferdinand’s comments echo Brazilian legend Ronaldinho’s assessment of Martinelli, with the former Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain midfielder claiming last season that his compatriot may develop into one of the game’s best players in years to come.
“We as Brazilians are very excited about him and his future,” Ronaldinho told the Mirror. “It is one thing to have the talent but another at the age of 18 to have the confidence.
“He reminds me of Ronaldo in his first season in Europe, he scored 30 goals and people were thinking: ‘Who is this 18-year-old Brazilian kid?’
“He wanted the ball, he would run at players, there was no fear no matter what players or team he was playing against – and I see that similar attitude in Martinelli. He just wants to be on the ball and score goals.
“Ronaldo went on to be the best player in the world – and that can also be the aim of Martinelli.”
Martinelli could be in line to feature for the Gunners in Saturday’s FA Cup third round meeting with Newcastle United at the Emirates Stadium.