Thomas Vermaelen
Thomas Vermaelen [Reuters] Reuters

Rafael Benitez's interest in signing Arsenal defender Thomas Vermaelen was revealed after Napoli winger Dries Mertens admitted that the Spanish manager is keen on landing the defender in January.

The Belgium international has seen his appearances being restricted for the Gunners as Arsene Wenger has fielded Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny. Vermaelen has started only twice in the league this season.

The 28-year-old has refused to commit his future to Arsenal as he fears lack of playing time at the Emirates could reduce his chances of making it national squad for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Mertens admitted that he has already urged his compatriot to join him at the Italian outfit and claims the former Liverpool manager is keen on adding Vermaelen to Napoli's squad in the winter transfer window.

"I have already told Vermaelen to come to Napoli 10 times. The city is magnificent and even Benitez asked me to convince Vermaelen to come here. But Arsenal is a great club and it won't be so easy for him to leave," Mertens said, as quoted in Sky Sports.

A move to Napoli in January could see Vermaelen would be a blow for the Gunners. The situation would leave Wenger with only Mertesacker and Koscielny as the two first choice centre-backs in the squad.

However, it would see the Belgium defender get more playing time with Napoli, which could improve his chances of making it to the national squad for the next summer's World Cup.

Meanwhile, Mertens became Benitez's first signing at Napoli after the winger joined the Italian club from PSV Eindhoven in the summer. The 26-year-old has started in six Serie A games this seasons and he admitted that he is not disappointed with the lack of starts in his debut season.

"Benitez was clear to me from the beginning. He told me how he wanted to play and also said he would like to rotate a lot. I had time to adapt myself, another league, another way of playing football," Mertens stressed.

"Benitez said from the start: 'I will bring you slowly, don't worry'. And that is what happened. Therefore I am not annoyed that I haven't played much at the start."