Barcelona Transfer News: Thomas Vermaelen War Looms with Manchester United

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistJuly 25, 2014

STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND - MARCH 01:  Thomas Vermaelen of Arsenal walks out to warm up prior to the Barclays Pemier League match between Stoke City and Arsenal at the Britannia Stadium on March 1, 2014 in Stoke on Trent, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images

Luis Enrique will offer Manchester United stern competition in the race to sign Arsenal defender Thomas Vermaelen this summer, with a Barcelona bid reportedly imminent.

According to Spanish newspaper El Mundo Deportivo (h/t Metro), La Blaugrana are ready to beat the £11 million offer lodged by the Red Devils earlier this summer.

BARCELONA, SPAIN - MAY 21: Luis Enrique Martinez poses for the media during his official presentation as the new coach of FC Barcelona at Camp Nou on May 21, 2014 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)
Alex Caparros/Getty Images

The news comes after Barca were rebuffed in their pursuit of Paris Saint-Germain centre-back Marquinhos, with the Spaniards hoping to add strength to their back line before the 2014-15 season commences.

As confirmed by the club's official Twitter account, Barcelona have already recruited former Valencia veteran Jeremy Mathieu, and Vermaelen could be another versatile addition to their defence:

That being said, Vermaelen is a similar prospect to the Frenchman in many ways.

Both players are capable of playing either on the left side of a back four or in central defence, leaving Gerard Pique and Marc Bartra as Enrique's specialist options in that area, with Javier Mascherano expected to revert back to midfield.

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It's a sign that the Spanish giants perhaps still aren't willing to invest as heavily in their defence as they are in other parts of the pitch, following the big-money arrivals of Ivan Rakitic and Luis Suarez in midfield and attack, respectively.

The competition for his signature works in the Gunners' favour, though, and the increased amount of interest could net them as much as £15 million, per Metro's report.

BBC Sport's Mike Keegan says Arsene Wenger's side have their choice of whom they'll sell to, although Barca may have an advantage considering the Gunners are unlikely to enjoy the idea of selling to an English opponent.

United are another club in need of experienced options following the departures of Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra to Queens Park Rangers, Inter and Juventus, respectively.

Sang Tan/Associated Press

Vermaelen has retained the captain's armband despite playing a peripheral role for the Gunners last season, with the partnership of Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker preferred at centre-back.

WhoScored.com shows one aspect of the 28-year-old's form in recent seasons which has undoubtedly played a hand in his drop down the pecking order:

While Vermaelen is a talent in his own right, his ability to cover multiple roles at the back is one attribute that works in his favour, and one could argue he wouldn't land a starting place at the Camp Nou or Old Trafford.

Vermaelen's age also means he wouldn't be the most promising of long-term investments, particularly after Barca's acquisition of 30-year-old Mathieu, turning 31 in October.

Bogdan Maran/Associated Press

Despite the interest, Arsenal's bastion could remain in north London, leaving the Gunners at risk of losing him as a free transfer when his contract expires next summer.

Should they wish to cash in now, however, the club stands to make a small profit on the £10 million they paid Ajax for his signature five years ago.

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