EPL: United's right for Vermaelen

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger hinted yesterday that English Premier League rivals Manchester United are one of several clubs pursuing the signature of Belgian defender Thomas Vermaelen.

Vermaelen, 28, is Arsenal's club captain, but he lost his place in the first 11 last season and has been linked with clubs, including United and Barcelona.

Wenger confirmed at a press conference that Arsenal had received bids for the left-footed centre back and, when asked which clubs had made them, he replied: "I can't tell you that, but you will know very soon."

Pressed as to whether United were one of the clubs to have expressed an interest, he said: "I think they could be in the group."

While Wenger would not comment on press reports that Arsenal are asking for a fee of up to £15 million ($31.6m) for Vermaelen, he conceded that he was considering letting him leave.

"It could happen," said the Frenchman, whose side face Manchester City in the Community Shield at Wembley on Sunday.

"I've said since the start of pre-season that it could happen that Thomas leaves us because he needs to play regularly.

"He has an outstanding attitude and behaviour, but he's in a position where it's difficult to stand in his way if he finds an interesting opportunity."

Wenger confirmed that there were foreign teams among the clubs to have made enquiries about Vermaelen.

When he was asked if he would prefer to sell him to an overseas club, he replied: "Ideally, yes."

Louis van Gaal is keen to strengthen his defence following the departures of Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra, and Vermaelen is believed to be one of the potential replacements.


United, though, will have to fend off Barcelona, who have reportedly made an official £10m bid for Vermaelen, with talks currently ongoing between the two clubs despite competing interest from United.

Media reports said Vermaelen had already agreed a deal in principle to join van Gaal at United, but Arsenal are reluctant to lose such a versatile player - even if he is not now among their first-choice centre backs - especially to one of their main Premier League rivals.

Wenger would ideally like to keep him as back-up - he can also cover at fullback - but Vermaelen has only one year remaining on his contract.

Arsenal, then, would be reluctant to allow him to run down his current deal and leave for nothing to a club of his choice next summer.

This article was first published on August 08, 2014.
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