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Arsenal captain Thomas Vermaelen targeted by Napoli

Rafael Benitez looking to boost his side’s Serie A challenge with signing of Belgium star

Thomas Vermaelen is in the sights of Serie A giants Napoli, according to the Metro and Il Mattino.

The Belgian centre-back, who has been playing second fiddle to Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny at Arsenal this season, could be tempted away to secure his starting berth at the World Cup.

Napoli boss Rafael Benitez is aware that his side cannot concede any more points to league leaders Juventus, who are already 10 points ahead of the third-placed Naples club.

Roma currently occupy second place and Benitez will be hoping to at least overhaul them and guarantee a Champions League group stage spot.

Raul Albiol and Federico Fernandez are Napoli’s current first choice duo but Vermaelen could provide strong competition while adding vital experience and a threat from set pieces.

The 28-year-old has been at Arsenal for four-and-a-half years and while he hasn’t won any trophies, he did claim one league title and two domestic cups while with Ajax.

He also has 46 caps for Belgium, and will be expecting to retain his place alongside Manchester City’s Vincent Kompany at the heart of their backline in Brazil.

His domestic rival Jan Vertonghen of Tottenham is a strong alternative though, and while he has often played at left-back for his country, it is clear the central position is where he is at his best.

Vermaelen has made only three Premier League starts this campaign and is unlikely to be able to oust Mertesacker or Koscielny any time soon as their form has been extremely impressive.

However, Arsene Wenger would be unlikely to want to sell Vermaelen as he has no other reserve central defenders and would be forced to play Bacary Sagna in the centre if Vermaelen wasn’t replaced and one of the first-choice pair was injured.

Benitez is also considering Marseille’s Nicolas N’Koulou, Cagliari’s Davide Astori and Andrea Ranocchia of Inter Milan as he looks to defend the Europa League trophy he won with Chelsea last season.

image: © Ronnie Macdonald

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