Royal Antwerp respond to Barcelona interest in star billed as Sergio Busquets successor

  • Arthur Vermeeren has already been likened to Sergio Busquets
  • Barcelona linked with 18-year-old as long-term successor to ex-captain
  • Antwerp boss Mark van Bommel previously played for Barca

Arthur Vermeeren is attracting attention
Arthur Vermeeren is attracting attention / ANP/GettyImages

Royal Antwerp boss Mark van Bommel has joked he will refuse to talk to Barcelona counterpart Xavi about midfielder Arthur Vermeeren for fear of losing the teenage star.

Vermeeren broke into Antwerp's senior side last season aged 17 and has become increasingly important for the Belgian side as they embark on a first European Cup campaign since getting knocked out by Real Madrid in the first round in 1957/58.

The youngster has won a Belgian league and cup double with his boyhood team already in his fledgling career, as well as this season's Belgian Super Cup.

Ahead of this week's Champions League group game between the clubs, rumours linking Barcelona with Vermeeren have resurfaced. He was previously tipped as a potential long-term successor to Sergio Busquets, who joined Lionel Messi at Inter Miami earlier this year.

Van Bommel, who played alongside Xavi at Barcelona more than 15 years ago, is reluctant to speak to his former teammate at the risk of giving anything away.

Mark van Bommel
Ex-Barcelona midfielder Mark van Bommel is Antwerp coach / BSR Agency/GettyImages

"I won't give him any information, because he would buy him immediately," the Dutchman said.

Antwerp have surged back to prominence in recent seasons since returning to Belgium's top flight in 2017.

The squad that will be taking on Barcelona features a mixture of senior pros steeped in experience and emerging young talents. 34-year-old former Tottenham defender Toby Alderweireld captains the side, with Vincent Janssen resurrecting his European career after a stint in Mexico.

Aside from Vermeeren, forward Michel-Ange Balikwisha is 22, on-loan centre-back Soumaila Coulibaly is 19, and midfielder Mandela Keita is 21.