In 2019, Gabriel was browsing an Adidas store when he decided to buy an Arsenal jersey and get his name and number printed on the back, according to the Daily Mail.
The Brazilian defender was playing for Lille at the time and making steady progress in his career. At the same time, he was developing a passion for the North London club. His Lille teammate, Nicolas Pepe, had signed for the Gunners that summer and this was a great reason to support the team.
One year later, Gabriel signed for the club he had developed more than a passing interest for and Arsenal signed one of the game’s most exciting young central defenders.
A host of clubs including Everton and Napoli were interested in the player but he chose Arsenal because he thought it would be a perfect fit.
Gabriel seems to have good judgement because his career at Arsenal started off brilliantly. He seemed to almost instantly adjust to English football and his impressive performances for the North London side have been one of the few positives of the Gunners’ season.
Finally, Mikel Arteta’s side had signed that strong, fast, aerially dominant central defender that they had been lacking for years.
On buying an Arsenal jersey and being a fan of the Gunners, Gabriel said:
“When I bought the shirt, I never imagined they would one day offer me a contract. Arsenal was a team I loved, and I always knew I would love them even more if I played for them.”
He scored on his debut for the North London side in a 3-0 win over Fulham on the opening day of the 2020/21 Premier League campaign. He won Arsenal’s Player of the Month award for the first three months of the season.
There are a number of Portuguese and French speakers at the club and this helped the 23-year-old find his feet. His English was not the best and this language barrier caused some amusement when manager Mikel Arteta asked him a question during a team meeting. Gabriel said:
“He was analysing a video when he asked me a question in English. I looked up at him with “what?” on my face and everybody laughed.”
“It was funny, but I sincerely did not understand what he said. He asked the question again, this time in Spanish, and I was able to answer him. We mix many languages at Arsenal.”
Gabriel believes his success in England is due to the amount of Premier League football he has watched. He has been a fan of English football since he was young and always believed his playing style would be perfectly suited to the league. He said:
“In France, the football is more physical than in England. There is more technique here, but my experiences in France and Brazil have prepared me to face any type of attacker.”
Gabriel was very close to moving to Everton in the summer. He had undergone a medical at Everton’s training ground at Finch Farm in March.
In the next few months, the pandemic had significantly affected the finances of all football clubs and negotiations between the Toffees and Lille collapsed. Arsenal swooped in and completed a deal for the player.
Gabriel has found it understandably difficult to explore life in London during the lockdown but is the kind of person who enjoys spending time at home. He said:
“I love London, but I also like to be at home. I’m not a guy who likes to go out. I stay at home and play a lot of Call of Duty. My life has always been focused on training first, and becoming a better player, then having fun.”
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