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United and Barcelona to go head-to-head for target

thomas-vermaelenManchester United face stiff competition from Barcelona in the race to sign Arsenal centre-back Thomas Vermaelen, according to reports in Spain that claim the Catalans’ interest in Vermaelen has increased in recent weeks.

The Belgian centre-back has been linked with a move to United for over a month now, with suggestions that Louis Van Gaal sees the Arsenal man as the perfect candidate to replace the departed Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, while Vermaelen’s versatility and his ability to play as left-back mean he could even provide cover for Luke Shaw.

Despite being club captain at Arsenal, Vermaelen has lost his spot in the starting XI and last week Arsene Wenger admitted he couldn’t guarantee the centre-back, whose contract expires in 12 months, will be at the Emirates by the time the season kicks off.

That looked to have paved the way for United to clinch the Belgian’s signature but, according to Spanish newspaper El Mundo Deportivo, Barcelona are ready to step up their interest in Vermaelen, who could be available for as little as £10m, to shore up their defence ahead of the upcoming campaign.

With Gerard Pique’ suffering from a loss of form and Carlos Puyol retired, Barcelona are left with only one nominal centre-back, Marc Bartra, but the youngster hasn’t fully convinced yet, hence the decision to deploy Javier Mascherano as makeshift centre-back. The Catalans had clinched the signing of Valencia’s defender Jeremy Mathieu but they had hoped to secure PSG’s centre-back Marquinhos before the French club swiftly claimed he’ll not leave Paris for less than £35m.

United, meanwhile, have been in the hunt for a centre-back since the end of last season and have been heavily linked with Mats Hummels, but Borussia Dortmund’s manager, Jurgen Klopp, claimed Hummels will not leave the Westfalenstadion this summer.