Everton, Liverpool, Arsenal and even Italian side Napoli are all in the race to sign Swansea defender and captain, Ashley Williams. Lowest estimates put his value at £8million, that figure however, could rise if competition for his signature gains momentum. Arsenal though, are believed to be the front -runners to bring the Welsh international on board.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is apparently willing to let club captain Thomas Vermaelen leave after the Belgian lost his starting position at the latter end of the season to Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker. And with clubs of the calibre of Napoli and Barcelona interested in signing the centre back, Wenger would again see it as good business if he can bring in Williams as an able replacement.
But Wenger could have some competition from the aforementioned clubs, most significant of those could be Everton; new manager Roberto Martinez could be keen to link up again with a player he brought to Swansea himself during his tenure at the Liberty Stadium. Williams arrived at the tail end of the 2007-08 season on loan from Stockport County and did enough to impress Martinez to pay out a fee reported to be £400,000 on a permanent contract.
With a contract in place until the end of the 2014-15 season, Michael Laudrup and in turn chairman Huw Jenkins will be keen to hold on to Williams, reflected in the comments of Williams’ teammate Ben Davies, “Last season I would say Ash was one of the best centre-halves in the Premier League, I cannot think of many who were better than him.”
Williams influence on his team and in turn his importance was further reflected by Davies who said “Ash gave me a lot of confidence on the pitch and the transition from Swansea to playing for Wales was made a lot easier as I played with him every week. He is a great player and a great captain, he is always there to talk to, and if you have to say something he is happy to take it.’
Liverpool could also be interested in the player as they look to bolster their squad in their push for a European place. And ex-Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez who is now in charge of Napoli is also thought to be interested in the player; although a move to Serie A, at this stage, seems one of the less likely outcomes.
Whoever does land the reliable central defender though, could well have a considerable battle on their hands to obtain the signature of the Welshman.