Thomas Vermaelen's proposed move to Manchester United looks to be off, after the club reportedly ended their interest in the Arsenal captain over a reluctance to include one of their own players in a part-exchange deal.
This is according to reports from the Manchester Evening News, who suggest that Gunners captain Vermaelen was one of Louis van Gaal's top defensive transfer targets this summer but now negotiations concerning the transfer appear to have ended.
No Smalling swap
While that aforementioned source do not mention the specific Manchester United player that Arsenal were looking to receive in exchange for Vermaelen, The Daily Mail hint that versatile England international Chris Smalling was the Red Devils player that was of most appeal to Arsene Wenger.
Manchester United's reluctance to part with Smalling makes perfect sense. While he has yet to really establish any sort of authority at Old Trafford, the whole point of Louis van Gaal pursuing Vermaelen - whose current contract at Arsenal is set to expire in 2015 - in the first place was to add to his threadbare options at the back.
The respective departures of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand this summer have left the Dutchman rather short on quality in that area and Van Gaal would presumably not be receptive to the idea of losing any more defenders - particularly not one as young as Smalling, who still has ample time to improve and flourish into an accomplished centre-back.
Indeed, if anything, Van Gaal's arrival as Manchester United's new manager heralds an increased need for extra cover in the heart of the defence, with the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss expected to continue to deploy a fluid 3-5-2 formation featuring three centre-backs and two energetic wing-backs.
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If indeed speculation that Manchester United have ended their interest in Vermaelen is accurate, then Barcelona would appear to have been thrust firmly into the driving seat for his signature.
The Catalan giants - who ended their somewhat bizarre self-imposed embargo on signing new central defenders last month with the capture of Jeremy Mathieu from Valencia - have reportedly agreed a fee of £15 million to sign the experienced Belgian, with Luis Enrique evidently keen to promote competition in defence following the retirement of previously talismanic captain Carles Puyol.
The addition of Vermaelen could go a long way to replacing the experience and influence lost by Puyol's sad departure, although the former has had his critics since losing out on a regular starting berth at the Emirates Stadium.
Quite where this leaves Manchester United in their pursuit of new defensive recruits is unclear.
Mats Hummels is another reported target for Van Gaal, although Borussia Dortmund's understandable reluctance to sell could scupper any potential deal for the impressive World Cup winner.