Gabriel Martinelli has revealed that the pain of his knee injury the first time round was so bad that he was in tears.

Manchester City's Spanish midfielder Ferran Torres (L) challenges Arsenal's Brazilian striker Gabriel Martinelli (C) during the English League Cup quarter final football match between Arsenal and Manchester City at the Emirates Stadium, in London on December 22, 2020. (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / AFP)

“Mikel talked to me during my recovery,’ Martinelli told Sportsmail. “Always calling me to know how I was, even when I returned to Brazil for a time in August. When the club needed me, he talked to me again, asking if I was feeling ready to play.

“I said, yes. I still feel a bit of pain in the knee, but the doctors say that it is fine. I’ve not been able to play 90 minutes yet, but it also needs time. My focus is on getting better and helping Arsenal.”

Martinelli then went on to explain how the injury felt at the time.

“I was about to receive the ball and felt a little pain on my knee,” Martinelli said. “Not enough for me to stop practising, but, while we were on the finishing session, I told them that I was in pain. They told me to rest and, if I felt the pain the next day, to let them know.

“When I woke up, I felt it but I was able to walk. I thought it was nothing at first, but it was a pain I’d never felt before. I went to the club for the examinations and they said it was not good and I would need surgery. It broke me. I cried a lot.”

The interview, given before the game against Newcastle which saw Arsenal win 2-0 and Martinelli pick up what looks like another serious ankle problem.

Gabriel Martinelli made his first start since his injury on 8 December, linking up with the Arsenal u21s for their match against AFC Wimbledon.

Gabriel Martinelli with the Arsenal u21s (Photo by Arsenal Academy on Twitter)
Gabriel Martinelli with the Arsenal u21s (Photo by Arsenal Academy on Twitter)

Ahead of the game, reports suggested Gabriel Martinelli would start and get the chance to play 45-60 minutes of the Arsenal u21s’ EFL Trophy clash.

As expected, the long-term-injured forward made the starting lineup, playing the first half before coming off for Kido Taylor-Hart at half-time.

It only took a couple of minutes for the 19-year-old to get his first shot off, forcing a block from a defender, but he was a little rusty in the early minutes. He seemed a little too excited to be back, playing very directly but losing the ball a few times.

The teenager grew into the half, and he was Arsenal’s biggest threat as it went on. He met a Miguel Azeez cross well for the team’s best chance of the half, but couldn’t quite direct his header past the goalkeeper.

Martinelli almost created another great chance with a clever chipped pass. Catalin Cirjan only narrowly failed to latch onto it ahead of the goalkeeper.

As for his work out of possession, it was as if the young Brazilian had never been away. He was chasing down lost causes and making tackles and blocks like he did all of last season. His enthusiasm is clearly still there.

Now, Martinelli just needs the fitness for a full 90. He’s not there yet but it seems unlikely it will take him much longer to get there.