Thomas Vermaelen looks increasingly likely to leave Arsenal this summer, just a matter of months after lifting the FA Cup trophy as Gunners captain.
According to the latest reports from The Daily Mail, Arsenal were eager to offer a new contract to the player but Vermaelen - who arrived in the Premier League from Eredivisie champions Ajax in 2009 - is supposedly unwilling to pen new terms and does not wish to enter into such negotiations.
Given that the 29-year-old's current deal at the Emirates Stadium is due to expire next summer, Arsenal are surely now left with no option but to sell Vermaelen, or else Arsene Wenger and the club's hierarchy will risk the fury of supporters by allowing him to depart on a free transfer in 2015.
Thankfully for Arsenal, it seems at this stage that there is certainly no shortage of interest in Vermaelen.
The problem is, however, that the clubs who appear to be leading the race for the £10 million-rated defender's signature - Manchester United and Barcelona - are two of the club's biggest rivals domestically and on the European front.
Given the former's traditional status as one of Arsenal's direct and most intense rivals, it is surely likely that Wenger would rather see Vermaelen - who was actually appointed full-time 'skipper following close friend Robin van Persie's own defection to Old Trafford - move to the Camp Nou.
It is very possible that Manchester United will push hard for Vermaelen, however, given the obvious benefits his arrival would bring.
As has been noted on several occasions previously, the departures of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic - not to mention Patrice Evra - have left new boss Louis van Gaal very short of quality, experience and cover at the back.
Although club stalwart Jonny Evans is believed to be in the running for the Manchester United captaincy, it seems incredibly unlikely that Van Gaal will be content to head into the new Premier League season with only him Chris Smalling and Phil Jones as credible options - particularly when you consider that the Dutchman is set to employ a formation that includes three centre-backs.
Vermaelen's ability to play at left-back also makes him a very attractive option for Manchester United, with that aforementioned loss of Evra leaving young Luke Shaw both without real competition and a seasoned mentor.
Borussia Dortmund star and World Cup winners Mats Hummels is another defender believed to be on Van Gaal's transfer wishlist, although the Bundesliga club appear hugely and understandably reluctant to sell.
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