Napoli step up interest in Arsenal captain Vermaelen

The Serie A club have met with the agent of Belgium defender, who has been kept out of the Gunners team by Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny in recent months
By Marco Giordano

Napoli are weighing up a summer move for Arsenal captain Thomas Vermaelen after meeting with the player's agent, Goal understands.

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Talks have taken place with Alex Kroes over a possible transfer for his client as Rafa Benitez looks to bolster his defensive options and mount a concerted Serie A challenge next season.

Benitez is a long-term admirer of Vermaelen, who has suffered due to the blossoming partnership between Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny at the Emirates Stadium.

Zenit have also been linked with a move for the Belgian before the Russian transfer window closes on February 25, but Arsenal have no intention of letting him go mid-season.

Vermaelen, who has been sidelined with a series of niggling injuries since starting the Gunners' FA Cup win over Tottenham on January 4, has been a fringe player at Emirates Stadium over the last 12 months.

However, the Arsenal staff have been impressed by his attitude and professionalism, and the defender has not pushed strongly for a move even though his place in Belgium's highly competitive starting line-up at the World Cup is under threat.