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Five Aside

Arsenal sign Ajax defender Vermaelen

Arsenal have completed the signing of versatile Belgium defender Thomas Vermaelen from Ajax Amsterdam.

The 23-year-old, who can play either centrally or on the left, passed a medical on Friday and will bolster a defence that came under fire from all quarters last season.

Arsenal have not disclosed the fee or the length of the 'long-term' contract, but Vermaelen's agent recently suggested a four-year deal had been offered to his client and reports estimate the transfer fee to be around £10m.

Vermaelen said: "Arsenal is a great club with a world class manager, high quality players and a fantastic stadium.

"I just want to assure the Arsenal fans that I will give everything for this club and I hope we can enjoy winning some trophies together next season.

"I have had a good taste of the Champions League during my time with Ajax and this is something I am looking forward to experiencing again with Arsenal.''

Vermaelen, who captained Ajax last season and played against the Gunners in the 2005-06 European campaign, added: "I am also looking forward to playing in the English Premier League, which for me, is the best league in the world.

"I just want to assure the Arsenal fans that I will give everything for this club and I hope we can enjoy winning some trophies together next season.''

The Belgian international, who joined Ajax in 2004 and has made over 100 appearances for the Dutch club, has twice won the KNVB Beker and also scooped the Johan Cruyff Schaal - the equivalent of the Community Shield - on two occasions.

Manager Arsene Wenger said his new recruit would bring some great qualities to his Arsenal side. "He is strong technically with a positive winner's attitude and I have no doubt his arrival will strengthen our team. Thomas Vermaelen will be a huge asset to Arsenal," he said.

"Thomas is a solid performer with good experience of Champions League and UEFA Cup football and is also a regular with the Belgium national team."

Ahead of Friday's medical in London, Vermaelen said: "A lot will change in my life. Next season I will come up against the best strikers in the world. I am not scared by that, I will give all my body can give.

"This is one of the most beautiful days of my life."

Wenger is now likely to turn his attentions to bolstering both his midfield and the frontline.

Yaya Toure, brother of Arsenal defender Kolo, has been linked with the Gunners, who could yet renew their interest in Blackburn striker Roque Santa Cruz - although are likely to be priced out of the market by big-spending Manchester City. It was reported on Friday evening that City had agreed a fee for Santa Cruz.


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