Both Gunners stars were included in Tite’s final 26-man Selecao squad for the inaugural winter tournament that gets underway in Qatar next week, though club team-mate Gabriel was omitted from the travelling party.
Though 56-cap regular Jesus was always expected to book a seat on the plane, Martinelli’s selection came as something as a surprise despite his excellent performances for Premier League-leading Arsenal so far this season, with Liverpool forward Roberto Firmino among those surprisingly snubbed amid World Cup favourites Brazil’s embarrassment of attacking riches.
While the 21-year-old has just three senior caps to his name so far, he has been one of the leading lights for Arsenal under Mikel Arteta, playing a key role in their transformation into genuine title challengers and described as “one of their highlights” by Tite.
But that is not enough for Neto, who insists that no one in Brazil even knows who Martinelli is as he instead made a strong case for the inclusion of in-form Flamengo striker Gabriel ‘Gabigol’ Barbosa.
"This is a shame, a joke! I feel ashamed! Not because of Dani Alves' story,” he said. “What is Martinelli's story? 33 career goals. This is a shame, a lack of respect for football. Doing this with football shows that you don't deserve the position you are in. Calling up Martinelli and not calling up Gabigol is a lack of respect. The biggest shame of all the call-ups.
"Nobody knows who he is. Calling up Martinelli shows that you, Tite, shouldn't hold the position you do, because you're not fair to Gabigol. The guy who scores five goals in the season, who walks around the mall here, nobody knows who he is… And not taking Gabigol, the guy who scored the goal of the Libertadores title, who scored 29 goals in the season. What has Martinelli done in European football? Arsenal are not even in the Champions League. This is a calamity!"
Jesus was not a surprising choice by Brazil, having been a regular starter during qualifying and scored 19 goals in 56 appearances for his country to date.
However, an irate Neto pointed to his recent scoring drought for both club and country as evidence of why he should not have made the final cut either.
"How many goals has Gabriel Jesus scored in these last games? Oh, none,” he said. “In the World Cup? Zero. In the qualifiers? Zero. He hasn’t scored in eight games.”