€36m Manchester United & Arsenal target has convinced Barcelona

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Arsenal and Manchester United will have to enter a big-money battle if they want to land a highly-rated La Liga youngster, as Barcelona are prepared to shell out the fee to secure his signature this summer.

According to Sport, the Camp Nou club have made strengthening the centre of defence as their most pressing task for this summer and are more than ready to pay the requisite fee to sign Athletic Bilbao youngster Aymeric Laporte. Both Arsenal and Manchester United have been credited with an interest in the talented centre-back and were tipped to play a role if any transfer occurred this summer.

Laporte has been terrific since making himself a regular in the Bilbao first team that look almost certain to secure the fourth and final La Liga Champions League qualification - a win away at Rayo Vallecano this Friday will all but guarantee it. This form has obviously impressed Barcelona, who face the prospect of replacing captain Carles Puyol this summer as he has confirmed he will leave the club.

Arsenal's interest in the Frenchman could be to do with the fact they look as though they will be short in defence come the summer. Bacary Sagna's contract expires at the end of the season and no agreement has been made over an extension, while club captain Thomas Vermaelen has been heavily tipped to move on after spending most of the season on the bench.

Meanwhile, Manchester United have reportedly set aside as much as £200million to rebuild the squad this summer as they plan for next season's aim of getting back into the Champions League. Failing to do so cost David Moyes his job last week and it will not be made easier by the fact that captain Nemanja Vidic has confirmed he will be joining Inter Milan on a free transfer this summer.

Laporte would fill the gap in the squad while also making sure the future of the position has good prospects. Barcelona are prepared to pay €36million to activate the release clause in the 19-year-old's Athletic contract.

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