Aaron Ramsey has expressed his hope that Thomas Vermaelen does not leave Arsenal this summer, although the midfielder understands why his colleague may wish to pursue pastures new before the deadline next month.
End of an era
Vermaelen may be Arsenal’s club captain but is far from the guaranteed starter he once was, with Arsene Wenger now favouring Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker as his first choice central defensive pairing.
The Belgian now operates purely as a back-up, used by Wenger only when required, and this is clearly no way to continue for a player once regarded among the elite centre-backs in European football.
But Vermaelen, although somewhat downgraded at the Emirates Stadium, does still enjoy a prominent standing in the game as shown by the interest of Manchester United and Barcelona now that he is supposedly available.
Wenger confirmed on Thursday that Arsenal have entertained interest in Vermaelen, although Ramsey hopes to see the 28-year-old continue to fight for his place in north London.
“He’s a fantastic player and a good friend of mine as well,” Ramsey said at a press conference.
“If it does happen he’ll be a big loss to us because he is a top, top player.
“But’s he’s been a bit frustrated over the last year especially where he hasn’t had the minutes that he would have wanted. So you can probably understand his frustration.”
Watch: Aaron Ramsey speaks about Thomas Vermaelen future
Manchester United deal
Manchester United have long been identified as the frontrunners to sign Vermaelen as Louis van Gaal bids to reinforce his defensive options, and reports have even go so far to say an agreement has been struck between the player and the club.
The Daily Express claim that Manchester United have offered Vermaelen £100,000-per-week - a pay rise he gladly accepted - and it is now down to the club to negotiate a fee with Arsenal. A £15 million transfer fee has been mooted.
Vermaelen, would appear to be a player ideally suited to the Louis van Gaal system set to be adopted, with the Manchester United manager having played with three central defenders during pre-season.
Jonny Evans, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling are the only three senior players currently available for these positions, with Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand both having departed, so the acquisition of another player is imperative.
The most likely of these three to be a regular starter is Evans, who has impressed Van Gaal immensely, and Vermaelen would surely slot straight in, with his versatility a potentially key factor.
It may well be that Van Gaal looks to further reinforce this area before the close of the window, with Mats Hummels and Mehdi Benatia also have been linked extensively with the club.