It is almost a given in Spain that Barcelona will sign a new central defender before the start of the season, but as they struggle to agree a fee for Javi Martinez, Thomas Vermaelen has emerged as a viable alternative.
Barcelona have wasted little time in shoring up their defence with the acquisition of Jordi Alba directly after Euro 2012, but new manager Tito Vilanova also wants some more competition centrally.
Carles Puyol is getting no younger and with age has come more injuries, while Eric Abidal is still continuing his recovery.
Martinez remains the chief target, but with Athletic Bilbao not in particularly desperate need of money, they are unwilling to budge on the Spaniard’s €40m buy-out clause.
This is more than Barcelona can afford to pay, while the fact that Thiago Silva has just signed a new contract until 2017 at AC Milan means that signing him is now out of the question.
With Bilbao also only really prepared to sell one of their bigger names this summer and Fernando Llorente being in such high demand, this reduces Barcelona’s chances of getting Martinez.
Therefore, Vilanova is broadening his search out of Spain and Vermaelen tops the shortlist.
His versatility in also being able to play left-back is another asset that appeals to Barcelona and if the growing reports that Robin Van Persie is not signing a new contract at Arsenal are true, Vermaelen may be the next to jump ship.
With Van Persie potentially off to Manchester City, the news will be like history repeating itself for Arsenal.
It was Samir Nasri to Manchester City and Cesc Fabregas heading to Barcelona 12 months ago and it is the same two clubs looking to rob the Gunners of their top stars again.
Bayern Munich’s Holger Badstuber and David Luiz of Chelsea are the other defenders being monitored by Barcelona.