Brazilian Big Brother

“We get together once in a while, have a barbecue and talk and wind down a little. It’s usually at David Luiz’s house, his house is very big (laughs), so you can have a nice barbecue, he has a pool … We catch up there. David is a very good person, a good person who welcomed me here very well, just like Gomes.”

In an interview with Goal.com in Brazil, Everton forward Richarlison revealed that David Luiz’s house is something of a hub for Brazilian players in the Premier League, who socialise together regularly- particularly the Brazilians that play for London clubs. Luiz and Willian went out of their way to befriend Richarlison when he first signed for Watford.

The cultural adaption from Brazil to England- London especially- is a steep one. In a footballing sense, the cultures are worlds apart in terms of the approach to games, training and, of course, the matches themselves. More broadly, British culture can be especially alien to Brazilians at first, who are used to a more effusive social customs. Brazilian households tend to be a throng of activity, with visitors and acquaintances passing through on a regular basis.

There is a greater emphasis on family, not least when it comes to meal-times. Eating together remains a firm staple in the Brazilian household, no matter your age or responsibilities. So while barbecues at David Luiz’s house might sound like a nice way for the Premier League’s band of Brazilians to unwind, it’s actually a little more important than that. It re-connects them to a fundamental part of their upbringing.

Brazilians have generally struggled to acclimatise to life in England during the Premier League’s continental boom years. Huerelho Gomes spoke about his difficulty adapting to life at Tottenham, pointing to the underwhelming Spurs careers of Paulinho and Gilberto Silva (no, not that one!) as evidence of the club doing too little to help Brazilian players to adapt to England.

However, there are signs that players coming to England from Brazil are acclimatising much more easily. This is, in part, because clubs are increasingly focused on marginal gains and place greater emphasis on settling foreign players. Arguably even more significant, is that the likes of Richarlison and Gabriel Jesus have had a ‘Brazilian big brother’ to help them settle.

Richarlison had the advantage of a Portuguese speaking manager in Marco Silva, but just as crucial was the presence of Huerelho Gomes at Watford. “I already feel at home, I feel like I’m in Brazil,” Richarlison said shortly after signing for the Hornets. “My teammates welcomed me very well, especially Gomes. He’s the guy who helps me a lot, sorted everything for me, my home, my car.

Likewise, when Pep Guardiola was looking to beat off competition from Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United and Bayern Munich for the signature of Gabriel Jesus, he enlisted Fernandinho to talk to Gabriel about the move. Upon signing, Fernandinho took on the same big brother / mentor role that Huerelho Gomes did for Richarlison.

The subsequent addition of Ederson strengthened this bond. Gabriel Jesus celebrates his goals by making the telephone symbol with his hands and mouthing, “Alô Mãe” (hello, mum) in tribute to his mother. He even has the phrase tattooed onto his shoulder. Family is everything- Neymar even has his sister’s face tattooed to his arm!

It is similar at Anfield, where Fabinho and Alisson point to the presence of Roberto Firmino and family in ensuring a swift acclimatisation to life at Anfield. “The two Brazilians helped me helped us a lot, it helped that they were already here,” Fabinho told Gazeta Esportiva, “We are always together in the day to day, almost every week we do something at someone’s house. Firmino’s family was very important to mine.

So what relevance does any of this bear to Arsenal? The signature of 18-year old Brazilian winger Gabriel Martinelli was secured earlier this summer. Gabriel is an interesting prospect. He is untested at a high level, but he has been playing regular men’s football in the Brazilian fourth tier for the last 18 months or so now.

He hasn’t been playing on manicured pitches behind closed doors, he has been playing against men with mortgages to pay on bumpy, unctuous pitches. He had the opportunity to move to Europe before this summer, having trained with Barcelona and Manchester United for brief periods, but chose to wait until his 18th birthday before transitioning to Europe.

Since Martinelli arrived in North London, he has been joined by two Brazilians of higher profile and more senior ranking in the shape of experienced defender David Luiz and former player and Technical Director Edu Gaspar. This could prove significant to Martinelli’s adaptation to life in England.

Luiz is already considered the central social hub for Brazilian footballers in the division; it won’t be long before Martinelli is sharing some churrasco with the likes of Willian, Felipe Anderson, Richarlison and Roberto Firmino. This link to his native culture could be very important into aiding his acclimatisation.

As I wrote a few weeks ago, Luiz is very much considered a jovial, affable presence in the dressing room and he has been quick to strike up a rapport with Martinelli. “It will be good to work with him, try to help him and also give him a bit of my experience in football around the world. I hope we both can do big things here.”

If Luiz can act as a big brother for Martinelli, then Edu’s presence could work like that of a kindly uncle. Edu has already explained that he favours a hands-on approach with players in his role, “I’m not the guy who stays inside the office and waits for someone to knock on my door and send a message to me. I want to be involved in the process, I want to be on the inside, I want to be with them.”

Edu is already familiar with Martinelli. As I explained on the Arsecast over the summer, a big part of Edu’s remit with the Brazilian national team was to make early contact with talented Brazilians who held dual passports. After Brazil missed out on the likes of Diego Costa, Thiago Alcantâra and Jorginho, Edu decided to offset the chance of further mishaps by making personal contact with dual nationality talent at an early stage, to make them feel valued and cared for by the Brazilian national team.

As part of this initiative, Martinelli was invited to train with the Brazilian national team ahead of this summer’s Copa América. Martinelli has an Italian passport and could declare for the Italian national team if he so wished. It is possible that Edu partially had his Arsenal hat on when the decision was made to invite Martinelli to an international training camp.

It also provides evidence for Edu’s hands-on approach with players and for Martinelli, having a compatriot in that role could prove to be invaluable. A lot of people that emigrate benefit from having contact with their own culture at regular intervals, but this is especially true of Brazilians. Shakhtar Donetsk expended huge resources helping their cadre of Brazilian players adapt to life in Ukraine. For Martinelli, the presence of senior figures like David Luiz and Edu Gaspar at Arsenal can significantly aid his development.

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