Pablo Mari looks set to be Mikel Arteta’s first signing as Arsenal manager, but how good is he and what will he bring to the team?
According to reports, Mari will join on an initial loan until the end of the season, which will include an option to buy the player permanently in the summer for £7.5million.
We’ve brought you the lowdown on the 26-year-old who Arsenal are about to bring to north London.
Born in Almussafes, Spain, Mari started his career in Real Mallorca’s youth team, before making his first-team debut in the 2011-12 season.
In search of regular football, he then joined Spanish third division side Gimnastic, and made 96 appearance for the club, helping them win promotion in 2015.
His performances saw him earn a move to Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City in 2016, but he was immediately loaned out to sister club Girona and played a handful of games during 2016-17.
Mari then spent a year in the Dutch league with NAC Breda, where he was captain, before returning to Spain to play on loan at Deportivo La Coruna in the second division.
The 26-year-old failed to make a first-team appearance for City and left the Etihad for Flamengo on a permanent deal in the summer.
Since moving to Rio de Janeiro, he has become a key part of their team, making 22 league appearances as Flamengo won the Brazilian Serie A title in 2019.
They also won the Copa Libertadores for the first time in 38 years as they fought back to beat River Plate 2-1 in the final, and Mari became the first Spaniard to win the competition.
Mari recently impressed in the Club World Cup final against Liverpool, helping Flamengo keep Jurgen Klopp’s side at bay until Roberto Firmino’s late extra-time goal.
Pablo Mari against Liverpool in the club World Cup. pic.twitter.com/xx5bL5WmJa
— GoonerViews (@GoonerViews) January 25, 2020
Mari is a left footed centre-back with good ball playing ability, although he isn’t afraid to get stuck in with some no-nonsense defending.
His style and technique also prompted comparisons with Barcelona’s Gerard Pique as they both like to bring the ball out from the back.
At 6’3″, Mari is a physical presence, so he can bully a striker and also pose a serious threat from set-pieces.
The 26-year-old may not be the quickest, but he reads the game well, organises the back four and shows excellent positional awareness to make up for his lack of pace.
Arsenal have been in desperate need of defensive reinforcements due to Calum Chambers’ knee injury and Shkodran Mustafi’s poor form.
“Given Man City’s defensive problems this year, they could have made a mistake letting him go, because he has been a vital part of the Jorge Jesus jigsaw,” South American football expert Tim Vickery wrote for ESPN.
“The steadiness of the Spaniard allows the two veteran full-backs, Rafinha and Filipe Luis, to spend more time in the opponent’s half than in their own, constructing the play from the back.”
“Mari has taken to the Brazilian league like a duck to water,” Marca wrote. “Solidifying the club’s back line and even chipping in with the odd goal.”
“He has demonstrated the technical prowess that one would expect of a player once signed by Pep Guardiola and Flamengo have only lost once in the 26 games he has started since his arrival.”
Video: Pablo Marí arriving at Heathrow Airport with Edu Gaspar earlier this afternoon ahead of his proposed move to Arsenal.
“Are you excited to sign for Arsenal?”
Marí: “Yeah, of course!”
— afcstuff (@afcstuff) January 25, 2020
“In my mind, I was moving to Manchester but I’d only been there once for my medical,” Mari told the Athletic. “I signed for City in 2016 but I’ve never met Pep Guardiola or any of the first-team players.
“I’d love to one day speak to him because he’s one of the greatest ever coaches. And when I signed for City, I did so because I felt that one day, I could play for them.”
“Jorge Jesus (Flamengo manager) changed my life in three months! He saw qualities in me that no one had seen before and even enhanced them,” Mari told Goal.
“He extracted things from me that I didn’t know he had. My best version multiplied by ten. He sees football differently and each day brings more aspects of the game to the group.”