Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has dealt Italian side Napoli a major transfer blow by confirming that he will not be selling centre-back Thomas Vermaelen this summer, reports The Guardian.
The Belgium international has been a substitute for the majority of the campaign due to the blossoming partnership of Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker, which then sparked rumours claiming that Rafael Benitez was ready to make a formal bid for the 28-year-old.
With Vermaelen visibly unhappy at sitting out of most games, a potential transfer away from the Emirates Stadium was on the cards, but in his press conference this week, Wenger confirmed that no players would be leaving without his consent.
"You might think it but these players are not necessarily open to a move," Wenger said. "We have only two players who are out of contract – Fabianski and Sagna [plus Bendtner]. All the rest need to have our agreement and they haven't got it yet."
Benitez, who is trying to build a team at Napoli strong enough to challenge for the Serie A title and also the Champions League trophy, has been keen to strengthen his back-line for sometime now, and with Vermaelen all-but ruled out, he may turn his attentions elsewhere.
The former-Liverpool boss has shown interest in Reds defender Daniel Agger previously, but if reports are to be believed, Spanish giants FC Barcelona will be making a formal bid for the Dane in the Summer as a replacement for Carles Puyol.
Despite Wenger ruling out a sale of Vermaelen, the player's agent was quoted as saying differently near the end of April as he confirmed that advanced talks were being held between Napoli and his client.
Alex Kroes, Vermaelen's agent, admitted that there was a lot of interest being shown in his client, not just Italian sides, but he also revealed that the centre-back wants to focus on the World Cup first.
'Yes Napoli have been on the player and have stepped forward, but other clubs have also shown their interest and not just Italian clubs,' he said. 'At the moment we are not thinking about it. There's a World Cup to be played and we will postpone any discussions until afterwards,' Kroes told calciomercato.com.
'You cannot say, though, that the player is close to a transfer to Napoli. I repeat: wait until after the World Cup, where Vermaelen is going to do his best, then we will consider any kind of offer regarding his future.'
With several teams interested in signing the Belgium international, Napoli may have to splash the cash in order to get their man once again this Summer.
The Serie A side had a busy transfer window last year signing; Gonzalo Higuain, Raul Albiol and Jose Callejon from Real Madrid, as well as loaning in Pepe Reina from Liverpool.
Their activity was high due to the sale of Edinson Cavani to Paris Saint-Germain for nearly £50million, but manager Benitez is still keen on strengthening his side even more in order to progress the Italians.
The Spanish boss was left disappointed this season when his side got eliminated from the Champions League in the group stages, despite finishing on 12 points, as both Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund finished above them.
His pain was further influenced when Benfica knocked them out of the Europa League as well, and Benitez is keen to make sure next year his team is stronger from back to front.
It's believed Napoli will have to sign a new goalkeeper as Reina will return to Liverpool after his year-long loan, and a formal offer for Vermaelen may still occur despite Wenger ruling the transfer out.
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