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Arsenal 'agree' to sell Vermaelen to Barcelona

ESPN staff
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Arsene Wenger: Thomas Vermaelen's future will soon be decided

Barcelona are believed to have agreed a £15 million fee with Arsenal for Thomas Vermaelen, with the BBC reporting the defender could complete a move to the Nou Camp this weekend.

The development followed claims that Manchester United ended their pursuit of Vermaelen because Arsenal wanted Chris Smalling to join in exchange.

Barcelona are said to have agreed a £15 million fee with Arsenal for Thomas Vermaelen © Getty Images
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Arsene Wenger was said to be unlikely to let Vermaelen go to Old Trafford unless a United defender came the other way and Smalling was thought to be his first choice.

Arsenal tracked Smalling as a youngster and tried to sign him from Fulham before he joined United in January 2010.

Smalling, 24, is yet to fulfill his potential at United but the club are keen to see how he develops under the tutelage of new manager Louis van Gaal, who has admitted defensive signings are a priority.

It now remains to be seen whether Vermaelen opts to join Barcelona, having preferred to stay in England with personal terms on a United deal reportedly agreed in principle.

The Daily Mail claim that Barcelona are confident of sealing a move after sending a transfer negotiator to London on Wednesday. Talks were said to be productive, with Vermaelen offered a four-year deal plus the option of an extra year and wages of £80,000 a week.

United were said to be prepared to go higher than Barcelona's offer but Vermaelen would now need to force the issue to join up with former Arsenal team-mate Robin van Persie at Old Trafford.

Wenger admitted on Thursday that United were in the race for Vermaelen, but said Arsenal would prefer to sell to a foreign club rather than strengthen a Premier League rival.

"He could leave, it could happen. I've said that since the start of pre-season," said Wenger.

"He needs to play now. He has shown an outstanding attitude but he is in a position where we wouldn't stand in his way if he finds an interesting opportunity."

Vermaelen joined Arsenal from Ajax for £10m in 2009 and has made 150 appearances in all competitions, though only played in seven Premier League games last season after falling behind Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker in Wenger's first-team plans.

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