Barcelona set to win race for Vermaelen

Barcelona are set to beat Manchester United in the race to sign Thomas Vermaelen after they had a bid of £15m accepted by Arsenal on Friday, BBC Sport has reported.

The Spanish club are now hopeful of completing the transfer over the weekend, with only a medical to be undergone and personal terms to be agreed as they look to make their third major signing from Arsenal in four years, after Cesc Fabregas and Alexandre Song.

Man Utd have registered a significant interest in the 28-year-old, but Arsenal reportedly wanted Chris Smalling in part exchange. They have preferred to sell Vermaelen abroad rather than to one of their Premier League rivals, and it now appears likely that Louis van Gaal will have to pursue other targets, with only three senior central defenders available just a week away from their Premier League opener against Swansea City.

Gunners boss Arsene Wenger has admitted Vermaelen is likely to leave after talks over a new contract broke down due to the Belgian’s desire to play more regular football, having fallen behind Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker in the pecking order at the Emirates Stadium. He is now expected to leave after five years in North London.

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