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Arsenal sell club captain Thomas Vermaelen to Barcelona for £15m

Arsenal, a guaranteed leading industry price of 7/1 to win the Premier League title with Coral, have sold captain Thomas Vermaelen to Spanish La Liga giants Barcelona for a reported fee of £15m.

The 28-year-old defender, who has penned a five-year contract at the Nou Camp, failed to displace Arsene Wenger’s first-choice centre back pairing of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny, and was also a reported target for Manchester United.

Barca have made strengthening their back line top priority following the retirement of their own skipper Carles Puyol. Jeremy Mathieu was recruited for a similar price to Vermaelen from Valencia earlier this summer.

Selling Vermaelen, who made 150 appearances for the Gunners in all competitions in five years at the Emirates, leaves Wenger with only two senior central defenders – those mentioned above.

Fitness struggles and a loss of form thereafter have effectively seen Belgium international Vermaelen’s career stall. He has now passed a medical at Catalan giants Barcelona, however, and will officially complete his move next week.

In-demand Borussia Dortmund and Germany centre back Mats Hummels has been linked with Arsenal, but also a host of other elite clubs around Europe. Summer signing Calum Chambers has been mooted as potential cover in the heart of defence, despite starring for Southampton at right back before sealing a £16m switch to the Emirates.

At one stage, United looked like Vermaelen’s preferred destination, but reports claimed Arsenal wanted a player in exchange and this led to the Red Devils pulling the plug on any potential deal. Louis van Gaal is among the managers linked with Hummels, as he looks to reshape his own backline.

Vermaelen, capped 47 times by his country, sustained another injury on international duty during the recent World Cup in Brazil, as Belgium reached the quarter-finals.

He thus failed to displace Marc Wilmots’ first-choice centre back pairing of Daniel van Buyten and Vincent Kompany, while Jan Vertonghen of Tottenham played left back.

New Barca buy Vermaelen can also play in both positions and that utility could be put to good use at the Nou Camp, as they look to recover from a trophy-less season last term.

Barcelona, under new boss Luis Enrique, are 5/4 second-favourites to win La Liga behind El Clasico rivals Real Madrid.