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Arsenal's Gabriel Martinelli (right) and Sevilla's Juanlu Sanchez battle for the ball during the UEFA Champions League Group B match at the Emirates Stadium, London. Picture date: Wednesday November 8, 2023.

Gabriel Martinelli went full Dimitar Berbatov to break ankles in the Champions League and we’re in awe

A trick not for the faint-hearted, Dimitar Berbatov’s iconic spin from the touchline is a bonafide brain melter and ankle breaker, but takes supreme talent to master.

It’s been at least 10 years and I am still trying to master it – unsuccessfully – leaving me public enemy number one on a midweek night when I’m spooning the ball back to the opposition at five-a-side.

Under the bright lights of Powerleague, the pressure is on like never before. Powerleague, Champions League – Gabriel Martinelli and I aren’t so different after all.

Or so I tell myself. A man can dream.

Those blinding lights on an ever-so-special Champions League night are what separate the wheat from the chaff. And while plenty of questions have been asked of both Arsenal and Martinelli in recent years, to see if they’re really up for the challenge like they suggest, the Brazilian proved they have what it takes against Sevilla.

Did he hold the ball hostage all night long and spend the evening rifling howitzers towards the top corner in astonishing fashion? No. Better.

He rediscovered that infamous Brazilian passport, took a detour through Bulgaria and sent Juanlu Sanchez packing in a style so supreme it left our jaws in another postcode.

Despite winning away in Seville, the Gunners faced a challenging task in completing the double over the Spanish side and putting one foot into the Champions League knockout stages, make no mistake.

Any sense of Arsenal not being at the races and Sevilla would’ve pounced like, well, like they were in the Europa League.

Crucially, the Gunners were at the races. Martinelli was desperate to win that race. He spent the entire evening rolling back the years and doing everything he possibly could to send his marker home with PTSD.

Flashy touches, darting runs, it was all cooking up nicely in a performance that eventually saw him earn the Player of the Match award.

Bukayo Saka and Leandro Trossard won the game with their goals, but Martinelli won us all over on the night with a frankly disgusting piece of skill that only former Tottenham and Manchester United forward Berbatov was ever able to do justice.

He did it so good that it became known as the Berba spin. Until now.

Taxi for Juanlu. That’s got to hurt.

Brazilian via Bulgaria is certainly a new one, but we love it. If there was ever a player who defied all laws of geography, it was Berbatov and his endlessly silky smooth feet.

There’s no shame in a Brazilian like Martinelli taking inspiration from that, even if Berbatov did ply his trade for rival clubs. It’s nigh-on impossible to hate a man who could glide around a pitch like that and make a flick at the touchline look so devastating.

We were all trying it as kids. Today’s children are too busy with that ridiculous Antony spin, but Martinelli is doing his very best to remind them all of the art of true skill and flair.

The revival of the touchline winger is what could save football for good. And while Jeremy Doku is trying his best to spearhead that revival on his own at Manchester City, he needs help.

In one scrumptious yet equally devastating flick and burst away from his marker, Martinelli has officially joined the force and is doing so in tribute to a true Barclays great.

By Mitch Wilks


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