Hit or miss? Rating the Brazilians to have played for Arsenal

Martinelli Gilberto Silva Arsenal Brazilians
GOAL
The Gunners have brought in several players from the South American nation down the years, but how have they fared in north London?

Arsenal have taken a shine to Brazilian talent again during the summer transfer window of 2022, with a potential star Marquinhos brought in before a big-money deal was completed with Manchester City for Gabriel Jesus.

The Gunners have also been linked with Leds winger Raphinha, with a theme running through their recruitment which suggests South American flair features prominently in their thoughts.

Plenty of performers from that part of the world have passed through north London down the years – filling roles from full-back to centre-forward – but who were those Samba stars and how did they fare in English football? GOAL takes a look…

  1. Sylvinho
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    Sylvinho

    Made history in 1999 when becoming the first Brazilian to sign for Arsenal as a move from Corinthians was completed.

    Succeeded club legend Nigel Winterburn as the Gunners’ go-to option at left-back and would make a total of 80 appearances across two seasons before being snapped up by Celta Vigo after making the PFA Team of the Year made in his final campaign.

    GOAL rating: Hit

  2. Juan
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    Juan

    Joined the Gunners from Sao Paulo in 2000 as a youngster with plenty of potential and provided cover for fellow countryman Sylvinho at left-back.

    Was restricted to just two competition appearances for Arsenal – a League Cup clash with Grimsby and a FA Cup tie with Gillingham – before joining Millwall on loan and returning to his homeland in 2004 at Fluminense.

    GOAL rating: Miss

  3. Edu
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    Edu

    Saw a switch from Corinthians delayed by passport problems, but linked up with Arsenal as part of a £6 million ($7m) deal in January 2001.

    Won two Premier League titles – forming part of the fabled ‘Invincibles’ squad of 2003-04 – alongside a couple of FA Cups and eventually returned to north London as the Gunners’ first technical director.

    GOAL rating: Hit

  4. Gilberto Silva

    Gilberto Silva

    Caught Arsenal’s eye when helping Brazil to World Cup glory in 2002, and a transfer from Atletico Mineiro was put in place immediately after that tournament.

    Slotted into the Gunners’ midfield alongside Patrick Vieira and would outstay the legendary Frenchman as a key holding component for Arsene Wenger.

    By the time he left to join Panathinaikos in Greece in 208, he'd won a Premier League title and two FA Cup triumphs across six seasons and 244 appearances.

    GOAL rating: Hit

  5. Julio Baptista
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    Julio Baptista

    Joined on loan from Spanish giants Real Madrid in the 2006-07 campaign as part of a deal that saw Jose Antonio Reyes head in the opposite direction.

    He struggled for a creative spark in England, registering only three Premier League goals, and headed back to Spain to help land a La Liga title at Santiago Bernabeu in 2007-08.

    GOAL rating: Miss

  6. Denilson

    Denilson

    Denilson was described as a mix of Tomas Rosicky and Gilbero Silva by Arsene Wenger when being lured away from Sao Paulo in August 2006 while still in his teens, but he never really lived up to that hype.

    Caught the eye at times while making total 153 appearances for the club, but struggled with injuries towards the end of his time in England and retraced his steps to the club that gave him his big break in 2011.

    GOAL rating: Hit and miss

  7. Pedro Botelho
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    Pedro Botelho

    Another player of potential that caught Wenger’s eye in Brazil, but failed to make a single appearance across five years tied to the Gunners.

    That was due to work permit issues, embarking on five loan spells with as many Spanish clubs before Arsenal finally decided to cut their losses in 2012.

    GOAL rating: Miss

  8. Wellington Silva
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    Wellington Silva

    Arsenal invested £3.5 million ($4m) worth of faith in the exciting winger when he was just 16 years of age, with a deal not officially completed until January 2010.

    FIFA backtracked on their decision to award a ‘Special Talent Visa’ to the youngster and it was not until 2014 that he acquired a Spanish passport that cleared him to play in England – at which point he was loaned out to Bolton and was never seen by the Gunners again.

    GOAL rating: Miss

  9. Andre Santos
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    Andre Santos

    Another Brazilian left-back to have graced the books at Emirates Stadium, with Santos making a move from Fenerbahce in the summer of 2011.

    He only made 33 appearances across two seasons and attracted criticism for swapping shirts with former Gunners star Robin van Persie at half-time during a Premier League meeting with Manchester United in November 2012.

    GOAL verdict: Miss

  10. Gabriel Paulista
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    Gabriel Paulista

    Cost Arsenal over £11 million ($14m) when lured away from Villarreal in January 2015, with the hope being that he was the man to solve long-standing centre-half issues at the Emirates.

    He was not the answer that Arsene Wenger was hoping for and returned to Spanish football at Valencia in 2017 after playing in 64 games for the Gunners.

    GOAL rating: Miss

  11. David Luiz

    David Luiz

    Questions were asked of Arsenal’s decision to hand £8 million ($10m) to London rivals Chelsea for Luiz from the moment that a transfer was announced in the summer of 2019.

    He arrived with plenty of pedigree, as a Champions League and Premier League title winner, but struggled for consistency with the Gunners – with three red cards doing little to aid that cause – and was released as a free agent in 2021 before returning to his native Brazil.

    GOAL rating: Miss

  12. Gabriel Martinelli
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    Gabriel Martinelli

    Snapped up from Ituano in his homeland as something of an unknown quantity in 2019, big things were predicted for the youngster from the moment that he bagged a Carabao Cup brace against Nottingham Forest in his first competitive start.

    Injuries have held him back at times, but Martinelli is now a senior international with Brazil and is up to 84 appearances for the Gunners while taking his goal tally to 18 – with the potential there for more to come from a forward that has been likened to iconic countryman Ronaldo.

    GOAL rating: Hit

  13. Willian
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    Willian

    Another deal done with Chelsea that felt like a good idea at the time, but ultimately delivered little return for Arsenal.

    Willian was handed a lucrative contract when joining the Gunners as a free agent, but flopped almost immediately and was released after just 12 months that delivered one goal through 37 appearances.

    GOAL rating: Miss

  14. Gabriel Magalhaes
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    Gabriel Magalhaes

    Interest from rival clubs across Europe was fended off in order to get a £27 million ($33m) move for Gabriel pushed through in September 2020 – with the commanding centre-half joining from Ligue 1 side Lille.

    Has struck up a promising partnership with Ben White at the heart of the Gunners’ defence and is considered by some to be future captain material, while also pushing for a first senior international cap with his country.

    GOAL rating: Hit