Arsenal have reportedly accepted a bid of £15 million from Barcelona for centre-back Thomas Vermaelen after long-term suitors Manchester United ended their interest in the player.
BBC Sport confirmed the news via its Twitter feed on Friday:
With the Emirates outfit having supposedly accepted the bid, it now remains for Vermaelen himself to agree personal terms with the Catalan giants.
United had previously been seen as front-runners to sign the Belgian international, who was looking for a move away from the London club after falling behind Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker in the pecking order in central defence.
Indeed, former Arsenal man Nigel Winterburn told talkSPORT he expected Vermaelen to move to United as the Red Devils look to bolster their defence under new manager Louis van Gaal:
If Manchester United make the best offer and, that’s where Thomas Vermaelen wants to go, then I believe he will end up there. I don’t think Arsene Wenger wants to, but he has a lot of respect for the player who has been there for a little while. He would love to sell him abroad if he did go but it wouldn’t surprise me if he ends up at Man United. Selling to his rivals doesn’t seem to bother Wenger that much. He wants to keep that player happy because he’s served the football club and hasn’t caused him any problems.
However, James Robson of the Manchester Evening News reported that the Old Trafford outfit ended their interest in the move after the Gunners insisted on including a United player in the deal.
The Independent's Ian Herbert suggests it was specifically Chris Smalling who the Gunners were interested in:
As for Barcelona, they have long been in need of added strength at centre-back—even with the somewhat underwhelming signing of Jeremy Mathieu—after Carles Puyol retired at the end of last season.
Whether Vermaelen is a good enough player to adequately bolster Barca's defence remains to be seen. Sky Germany's Jan Aage Fjortoft is sceptical:
While the 28-year-old was excellent in his early years at Arsenal—he arrived in 2009 from Ajax—he does seem to have lost form of late, hence him losing his starting spot with the Gunners.
However, he is certainly a strong player and is authoritative in the penalty area. If nothing else, Barca now have relatively decent depth at centre-back, not something that can be said of recent years.
With new boss Luis Enrique looking to claim the La Liga title in the coming season after a trophy-less 2013-14, Vermaelen should provide a certain reliability in the back line alongside Gerard Pique.
If Vermaelen cannot re-find his form in Spain, Barcelona may come to regret the move if it does eventually go through.