Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal is making a mistake in the transfer market, and should target Laurent Koscielny instead of Thomas Vermaelen.
The Red Devils have been heavily linked with a move for the Belgian international, who is currently representing his country at the World Cup in Brazil. Indeed, reports in The Daily Star yesterday claimed that the club had agreed a ‘financial package’ with the player - but not a fee with his club.
£11million is the figure quoted in the national English papers, and it’s starting to look more and more like Louis van Gaal will get his man if he wants to bring him to Old Trafford.
The new Manchester United boss has already flexed his financial muscle at the club, despite being busy himself in Brazil. The Dutchman has led his nation to the quarter-finals of the tournament, and also struck deals for Ander Herrera and Luke Shaw.
Vermaelen could be his third major signing as manager of the former champions, but there is a fear that the 62-year-old is making a bit of a mistake this time around.
True, the centre back was impressive when he first arrived at Arsenal in 2009, playing 45 games in all competitions and scoring a handful of goals. But, it’s never got better than that for the Ajax man.
The following season he suffered a couple of major injuries and hardly played, before becoming vice-captain when Cesc Fabregas returned to Spain. Despite more injury concerns the following year, Vermaelen featured much more regularly for Arsene Wenger, and then took the captain’s armband for the 2012/13 campaign.
It was in that year that cracks started to show in the former Ajax starlet’s performances, and as the season drew towards its conclusion he was no longer an automatic selection at the Emirates Stadium. That theme continued last season, and he lost his place behind Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker.
With the summer now upon us, it’s crystal clear that Vermaelen is the third choice centre back at Arsenal. He has fallen behind the German and French internationals in the pecking order, and there is little evidence to suggest that he’ll get that place back.
So is that good enough for Manchester United? The third choice defender at one of their domestic rivals? In the past, the answer would have been no, and with Van Gaal now at the helm, you would expect that scenario to be the same. However, it appears the Belgian’s past reputation has gone before him.
Perhaps it’s his slight fall in north London that’s allowed the Red Devils a chance to sign the player in the first place. For all the speculation linking Vermaelen with an exit, there has been little in the way of Arsenal trying to keep him. The idea of a new contract was mooted in The Daily Mirror last week, but there has been little in the way of official follow-up.
The same can’t be said of Koscielny, who recently signed a new deal at Arsenal amidst speculation top clubs - including Manchester United - were chasing him.
Currently at the top of his game and earning international recognition, the Frenchman would appear to be the pick of the 28-year-olds if you put the two together, and surely therefore the better option for United.
It’s a sign of their fall post-Sir Alex Ferguson that it’s the other way round, and whilst signing any player from a rival provides a significant lift for supporters, it could be Arsenal who have the last laugh on this occasion.
In the past, that hasn’t been the case - notably when Robin van Persie moved to Old Trafford. Wenger's hand appeared forced on that occasion - much like with Cesc Fabregas - but this time he looks to be playing his cards without concern.
Value for money
It might ‘only’ be £11million, but Manchester United will want a relatively quick return for their investment if a deal goes through. Whilst the fee is small in comparison to those paid for Shaw and Herrera, it's still good money for a defender.
Koscielny would almost certainly cost even more, but he would be worth the extra cash - quite simply to bring a better quality player to Manchester United. Even though he’s recently signed a new deal, a bigger and better contract offer could turn his head, and we’ve seen on countless occasions in the past that this can be enough to force a move.
Thomas Vermaelen is still a good player, and may well return to top form in the coming years. However, his signing is more of a gamble for United - and an easier decision for Arsenal to make - because he's not currently playing at that level. Koscielny is, and for that reason alone he's the right man for a team looking to challenge for the title.
When both these sides start the 2014/15 season, they'd be better with him on the pitch rather than his current teammate.
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