Arsenal’s Gabriel Martinelli names Cristiano Ronaldo as his biggest footballing idol growing up

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Gabriel Martinelli has named Cristiano Ronaldo as his biggest childhood footballing idol, although the Arsenal star was keen to stress his parents were his ‘main inspirations’.

Martinelli has been a key player for the Gunners this season, netting 15 goals in 35 league games as they continue to hunt down a first title since 2004.

He has now revealed a childhood affection for a legend from one of Arsenal’s biggest rivals.

The 21-year-old told the club’s website: ‘If you were talking about footballers, the person I looked up to was always Cristiano Ronaldo. I used to watch him a lot when I was growing up.’

The legendary Portuguese forward scored 145 games across two spells at Old Trafford, but left under a cloud in January as he departed for Saudi side Al-Nassr after criticising the club in an explosive interview.

Martinelli was keen to stress he had other influences from outside the game, though, as he continued: ‘ I loved [Ronaldo’s] style, but in life, my main inspirations for sure are my parents.

‘Back when I was young and still now, they are always there for me. They have helped me in so many ways, from day one, they have always been with me, supporting me, giving me advice and trying to help me.

‘My dad played a bit of football when he was younger. He wasn’t professional but he liked to play for fun and he loves the sport. I think my dad always had that dream of having a son that could become a professional footballer.

‘My mum as well always encouraged me from day one when I started out in football. They always did everything they could to help me achieve my goals and to become a footballer.’

The Arsenal winger came close to following in his idol’s footsteps and had a trial with the Red Devils as a teenager, but has now revealed being daunted by the experience.

‘I think I was about 13 or 14 when I went to Manchester for the first time,’ he added. ‘I don’t remember exactly, but I was still young, nobody knew me.

‘That was a new experience for me, being away from home. I didn’t like it at first. I wanted to be at home but I would go with my dad to these places and I was a bit scared.

‘A different country, a different language that I didn’t speak, so it was hard for me.’

Despite a recent wobble that saw Arsenal lose their grip on the title race after three points from four games, they are now just one point behind leaders Man City after an impressive win at Newcastle.

City do have a game in hand, but will face a rampant Everton side next who beat Brighton 5-1 in their last game.

The Gunners will next be in action on Sunday, when they face the Seagulls at the Emirates.

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