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Arthur Melo: Why Man Utd, Chelsea challenging Barcelona for Tite's World Cup bolter

He knew this time would come. Renato Gaucho, Gremio's charismatic coach, he knew Europe's biggest clubs would eventually come knocking for his protege, Arthur Melo.

In England, it broke this week that Manchester United and Chelsea had been tracking Gremio's exciting 21 year-old midfielder for much of the year. This on the back of Spanish reports of interest from Barcelona.

"I'm happy for my work to be recognised," says Arthur, "it's nice for me to gain notice in such a great team."

Barca first made their interest known in October, with scouts posted to see Arthur in league action.

"Though I haven't heard anything official, I was told they (Barca scouts) have been here. I'm happy knowing my work is being seen positively."

Barca's interest arrived just weeks after a first call-up by Tite to the Brazil squad - on recommendation of Arthur's Gremio coach Renato. And now, he can add two of England's biggest clubs to his growing list of admirers.

For Renato, it's no surprise - and he admits the sale of Arthur is something being discussed at boardroom level.

"For Arthur, I've even talked to the board, Arthur is the biggest of Gremio's golden eggs," says the coach. "He plays everywhere. He looks at ease.

"He is a player who has helped this team a lot - and continues to do so."

Renato and Arthur are linked closely. It was the coach, upon his appointment at Gremio last year, who managed to prevent Arthur from being lost to the club.

The midfielder's father, Ailton, takes up the story...

"Sao Paulo called me, they wanted to sign Arthur," he recalls, "but Gremio wouldn't let him go.

"When it came to talk about a new contract, we refused. Arthur was only training and was getting no feedback about why he wasn't playing. We even tried for a loan move, but Gremio said no. We chose to stay, waiting for his chance."

That chance came in the form of the departure of Roger and Renato's arrival in his stead. The former Gremio star saw a "rough diamond" in Arthur and immediately included him in his first team.

"He encouraged Arthur all the time and told him that if he continued to train like he was, he would have a chance soon," says Ailton. "Then the boy became much more motivated. Before then, coaches would not even talk to him.

"But everything changed when Renato arrived."

That was just a year ago. Since then, he's enjoyed a first call-up to the Selecao, been likened to Manchester City star Gabriel Jesus and attracted the interest of Europe's biggest clubs.

"I don't think about," says Arthur of his sudden fame. "I leave it all to my family and my manager.

"I think the most important thing is to keep playing well, help the whole team, if they do well then I do well.

"If I can continue to be decisive in games then we'll see what happens..."

Despite his lack of experience, Arthur is under serious consideration by Tite for his World Cup squad. His energy and versatility raising the prospect of him going to Russia as cover for Barcelona midfielder Paulinho.

As mentioned, a word from Renato convinced the national team boss to take a closer look earlier this season.

"I had a conversation with Renato Gaucho about his qualities, I had already done the same about (Gremio striker) Luan, and that also carried weight," says Tite.

Ailton adds, "We already had information that Tite was watching Arthur, especially after he talked to Renato. I had hopes that Arthur would one day be called, but I did not think it would be so soon."

As Europe's biggest clubs can attest, Tite admits Arthur's form was simply too good to ignore.

"I cannot close doors, in a position where he is important, with the quality and performance he is having, even though he is young. I do not know if in nine months he will have an affirmation and confirmation.

"But he will have this opportunity for what he is producing and for the expectation he is creating. We can compare him to Gabriel Jesus and how quickly he emerged."

Tied to Gremio until 2021 and with his buyout just raised from €40m to €50m, waiting beyond January and using the World Cup as a shop window is the favoured option of Arthur's camp.

"There's been no official offer," says Jorge Machado, the midfielder's prime agent, "but a lot of interest and speculation."

Which, as Renato predicted upon seeing him in that first training session, is sure to only increase as the world becomes more familiar with Arthur Henrique Ramos de Oliveira Melo.


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Paul Vegas

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