Barcelona have reportedly bid £10 million for Arsenal's Thomas Vermaelen after the Catalan club's latest attempt to sign Marquinhos was rebuffed by Paris Saint-Germain.
Peter O'Rourke of Sky Sports confirmed the Blaugrana's attempt to prise Vermaelen away from north London, saying, "Barcelona have moved ahead of Manchester United in the race to sign Arsenal defender Thomas Vermaelen." O'Rourke also indicates Barca "have firmed up their interest" by offering £10 million for the Belgian.
This comes shortly after Barcelona's reported bid for Marquinhos was batted away by PSG. Sky Italia journalist Gianluca Di Marzio writes (via David Amoyal) "both [Andoni] Zubizarreta and Luis Enrique have identified Marquinhos as the ideal defender" to head up the club's defensive overhaul, but an official €40 million bid left the French champions uninterested in selling the 20-year-old centre-back.
Instead, the cheaper alternative of Vermaelen will be used to improve Barcelona's struggling back line. Enrique has already splashed £15.8 million on Jeremy Mathieu this summer, a questionable deal considering the 30-year-old's age and quality, per BBC Sport.
Enrique appears happy to settle for experience if he cannot land developing targets such as Marquinhos. Vermaelen is a completely proven entity and can slot into a centre-back or left-back role, ensuring the likes of Gerard Pique and Jordi Alba can't afford to settle under complacency.
The Arsenal defender's leadership qualities are often overlooked due to his inability to hold down a place in the Gunners' starting lineup. He is club captain at the Emirates and regarded an "an important player" by Arsene Wenger, as reported by BBC Sport.
Vermaelen needs a run of games to find his sharpness, but once completely settled, he offers a dominant force who can read danger excellently before coolly playing the ball away from danger. Although not as bulky as Pique, his extra lick of pace would also aid Barcelona's ability to defend long balls, which played a key role during the club's inability to capture last season's La Liga title.
Football writer Jason Pettigrove questions whether Vermaelen can remain fit, however:
Vermaelen looking a very likely purchase for #fcb Still only 28, but will injuries curtail his progress? At £10m he's certainly worth a punt— Jason Pettigrove (@jasonpettigrove) August 6, 2014
Marquinhos hasn't proven himself to be so positionally versatile, but the youngster stands among the best emerging defenders in the world. Much of his potential remains untapped, suggesting Barca would likely need to sign another centre-back even if he does arrive, just in case the immediate pressure of playing at the Camp Nou takes hold.
Which defender should Barcelona sign this summer?
Enrique is expected to deploy a team that will flaunt added fight, highlighted by the signings of Ivan Rakitic and Luis Suarez. These are players who remain active throughout matches and continue to challenge for possession across the pitch.
Both will complete their multifaceted duties without leaving the team short, as the new boss strives to imprint a sense of responsibility into some players who have become too comfortable at the club.
One such individual is Dani Alves, who may have played his last match for the famous side. Defensively, Alves stuttered through last season with a mix of performances that often left Barca exposed at the back. He repeated this during Brazil's ill-fated World Cup run, where he was quickly dropped by Luiz Felipe Scolari.
Sergi Font of Marca indicates Enrique is looking to sell the right-back but is yet to receive any offers. This comes shortly after the headline "Alves Stays" was run in Spanish paper Sport, translated via 101 Great Goals.
Alves himself appears excited by the prospect of remaining with Barca. He posed alongside Alba in a photo posted on social media, saying, "Back to work! Excited like a kid but with the experience of a man! All good things come to an end, but now things get even better," as reported by Font.
Whether things get better for Alves at the Camp Nou remains to be seen.
Enrique is set on ushering his influence over the defence, as highlighted by his bid for Vermaelen. The Arsenal player would feel like something of a filler until Marquinhos can be attained, but that's perfectly acceptable when considering Barcelona's need for immediate improvement.