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Gabriel Magalhaes exclusive interview: Brazilian defender on Arsenal project and telling Gabriel Jesus to join

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It turns out manager Mikel Arteta and technical director Edu were not alone in convincing Gabriel Jesus to join Arsenal. In June, weeks before the 25-year-old’s arrival was finally confirmed, his namesake Gabriel Magalhaes was also on the case.

“Gabriel is a really good guy,” the centre-back tells Sky Sports of his new team-mate. “Of course, it helps that we have the Brazilian link. When we were on international duty, we discussed his future and I was telling him, ‘Come to Arsenal! Come to Arsenal!’”

Gabriel utters the last line jokingly. But if Jesus already feels at home in his new surroundings – and his explosive start to life at Arsenal suggests he does – then it is partly down to the countryman and international team-mate helping him settle in.

“He is someone who is very focused and really enjoys working hard,” adds Gabriel. “He is here to improve the team and he is already doing that. He has come here with big expectations. He wants to achieve big things with Arsenal. I think he is really going to help us.”

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“But out on the pitch, one is Jesus, the other is Martinelli, and I’m Gabi. It’s a bit complicated for people, but it’s not so difficult for us. We talk a lot and we understand each other well.”

Gabriel is speaking to Sky Sports under the baking midday sun at Arsenal’s London Colney headquarters. The mood is positive.

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Last year, they started the season with a tumultuous run of three consecutive losses. On Saturday, they face Leicester at the Emirates Stadium aiming for a second consecutive win.

“We are definitely in a better place now,” says Gabriel.

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“There were lots of changes at the club in the summer and it was important to make a good start. The determination and focus we showed against Crystal Palace were key to getting the three points.”

The themes of determination and focus resurface repeatedly during our interview and they are qualities Gabriel sees in new signings Oleksandr Zinchenko, Fabio Vieira, Matt Turner and Marquinhos, as well as Jesus. They have, he says, added considerable quality too.

“I think when new players come in, they always boost the level of quality in the squad. That goes for the new signings but also the players who have come back from loans.

“Everyone is here to help the team. Having more quality will help us get Arsenal where it needs to be.”

That, of course, means back into the Champions League.

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Arsenal fell agonisingly short last season, finishing two points behind Tottenham in fifth place. But their reinforced squad, now older and wiser, looks well set to deliver improvement this time around.

Gabriel, a £27m signing from Lille two years ago, will be key to it.

Last season, the Brazilian started all but three of Arsenal’s Premier League games, playing more minutes than any of his team-mates and making his presence felt in both boxes.

Indeed, as well as ranking top for tackles, clearances, touches and successful passes, Gabriel scored five goals, including three with his head, his aerial prowess helping to make Arsenal one of the most dangerous teams in the division from set-pieces and further underlining his growing importance to the side.

“I think the Premier League is definitely one of the toughest leagues to play in and I would say I have definitely improved a lot since arriving here,” he says. “That goes for my passing, my heading, and various other aspects of my game.”

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Gabriel is grateful for the close attention he has received from Arteta and his staff – “I think the coaches have helped me a lot,” he says – and, while he opts to conduct this interview in Portuguese, his understanding of English has improved markedly too.

“The first year was a bit tougher, in terms of settling in,” he adds.

“That doesn’t mean the second year was easy, but it was certainly better. My English had improved by then. I was able to communicate better with my team-mates on the pitch.”

Arteta described Gabriel as a player with an “incredible future” last season and the initial language barrier did not prevent him from quickly becoming a leader in their defence.

Gabriel, while softly spoken in front of the media, is a vocal presence on the pitch who can usually be seen orchestrating Arsenal’s backline and directing team-mates in and out of possession.

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“I like having that responsibility,” he says. “It’s important to have leaders in defence who communicate a lot with the whole team. We are all improving our communication, I think.”

That improvement can be seen in the speed with which Arsenal’s new arrivals have adapted, including centre-back William Saliba, whose outstanding Premier League debut alongside Gabriel against Crystal Palace, following three consecutive loan spells in France, earned him widespread plaudits.

As with Jesus, Gabriel is playing a key role in helping the young Frenchman bed in.

“He’s a young player who came here at a very young age and then went out to get some experience. Now, despite his age, he is already playing for the French national team. That tells you how good he is. He’s here to help the team and he’s a very promising talent.

“He is a good friend of mine already,” Gabriel adds. “We speak French together, so that helps. He has added a lot of quality to the team and I think he has a brilliant future ahead of him.”

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Gabriel, of course, is well placed to offer advice and guidance to the 21-year-old having made the transition from France, where he spent three years with Lille, to England at roughly the same age.

“I have been here for two years now, so I do have experience that I can use to help him,” he says. “But at the same time, he can help me. He has a lot of quality and a lot of physical strength out on the pitch.

“We have similar qualities. I think we complement each other well.”

Arsenal supporters now hope Saliba will continue to blossom in much the same way as Gabriel, whose progress has led to reported interest from European giants Juventus and Barcelona this summer.

“It’s always nice to get that recognition but I’m really focused on Arsenal,” he says.

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“I am very happy here. I’ve got a good relationship with my team-mates and I am fully committed to the project.

“I am convinced that, with the project we have, we can achieve a lot.”

It is quiet at London Colney, apart from occasional interludes when Gabriel’s team-mates drive past the area where we are seated on their way home, but last season the team’s every move was closely followed by Amazon’s cameras for the All or Nothing documentary.

“I’ve seen it,” Gabriel says, smiling again. He now hopes the series will help to bring the players and supporters even closer together.

“It’s good for showing the reality of what is actually going on in the dressing room in the day-to-day. People can understand things a little more and see how different it is from what they might imagine.

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“As players, of course we always play to win. But sometimes we lose games and there are difficult moments. Things happen. I think the documentary does a good job of showing the reality of what goes on.”

The cameras are gone now. But for Arsenal, that reality continues. Expect Gabriel, in particular, to approach Saturday’s game against Leicester with as much determination and focus as ever.

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2022 World Cup: Unwanted history for hosts Qatar against Ecuador

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Qatar on Sunday, became the first host country to be defeated in their opening game in the 92-year history of the World Cup.

Ecuador beat the Middle East country 2-0 courtesy of two first-half goals from captain Enner Valencia. Ecuador’s captain also saw a goal ruled out for offside. The result means Qatar become the first host nation ever to lose their opening game at a World Cup.

It’s obviously not the start Qatar will have wanted to make to a competition that had been plagued by controversy before a ball had even been kicked.

Supporters also made their feelings clear about the match at half-time as they abandoned the game in large numbers with the hosts already 2-0 down. Initial estimates suggest around 20,000 supporters left the game at the break.

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There were just 11 shots in this game (five for Qatar, six for Ecuador) – no World Cup match on record (since 1966) has seen fewer attempts.

The hosts return to action on Friday against Senegal.

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Victor Osimhen Bags Huge International Award And Recognition

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Nigeria and Napoli forward Victor Osimhen has received a huge international award and recognition for his relentless contribution at the international and club level.

The Super Eagles of Nigeria and Napoli forward Victor Osimhen received a huge international award from the Globe Soccer Awards. The talented player was recognized for his immense contribution to both club and country.

He was crowned the Emerging Player Of The Year 2022, which was deserved on every level as the player has continued to show his importance at the club level for Napoli by contributing towards the impressive run of the club in the new season as well as the previous season.

Although the Super Eagles of Nigeria would not be going to the World Cup 2022 in Qatar, he had been one of the stand-out players for the Eagles in their qualifiers.

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Contragulations Victor.

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2022 World Cup: I am totally, absolutely focused on Portugal- Ronaldo says amid Man Utd criticism

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In the wake of his scathing interview about Manchester United, Cristiano Ronaldo declares that Portugal will be his “absolute focus” during the World Cup.

The five-time Ballon d’Or winner, in an interview with Piers Morgan for TalkTV, which will be made public in its entirety on Wednesday, criticised United manager Erik ten Hag, Ralf Rangnick, and senior officials at Old Trafford.

Ronaldo claimed that United had “betrayed” him and that the team had not advanced since Alex Ferguson left in 2013.

Man Utd react to Ronaldo’s interview with Piers Morgan

After the interview, United reacted with a statement on Monday mentioning it and promising to respond “after the full facts have been established.”

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Prior to Portugal’s November 24 match against Ghana in Group H, the 37-year-old declared on Monday that his entire attention would be on playing for Portugal in Qatar.

“Total and absolute focus on national team work. United group, towards one objective: realise the dream of all Portuguese people!,” he posted on Instagram.

Despite missing United’s previous two games due to “illness,” he posted a photo of himself with his Portugal teammates during a training session.

Without Ronaldo, the Red Devils defeated Fulham 2-1 on Sunday, moving them up to fifth place in the Premier League, three points behind Tottenham with one game remaining.

In the Middle East, where Fernando Santos’ team will also play Uruguay and South Korea, Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo hopes to lead his nation to World Cup triumph.

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