Ex-Arsenal star Thomas Vermaelen retires aged 36 and is on verge of becoming Belgium assistant manager

FORMER Arsenal star Thomas Vermaelan has announced his retirement – and is poised to be named Belgium assistant manager.

The 36-year-old left Japan's Vissel Kobe after his contract expired in December.

Vermaelen signed a two-and-a-half year deal with the J1 League side in 2019 after leaving Barcelona.

He went on to help them to win the Emperor's Cup that year, their first domestic trophy.

But the no-nonsense centre-half has decided to hang up his boots – with Belgian news-site HLN reporting that he will become Roberto Martinez's No2 with the national team.

They report that "Vermaelen is the perfect man in Martinez's eyes. Even more so because he knows this group like no other."

He will replace Scot Shaun Maloney, who left that position to become manager at Hibernian.

And of course boss Martinez's own future is up in the air.

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He is reportedly been considered by the Everton board to succeed sacked Rafa Benitez.

It would be an emotional return to Goodison Park for Martinez, who was sacked by the Toffees in 2016 after a three-year spell.

But SunSport understands Everton’s approach for ex-boss Martinez has been blocked by the Belgian FA.

It is believed Martinez wants to stay in charge of the Red Devils for the World Cup finals, which kick off on November 21.

But the 48-year-old had hoped to operate as Everton’s interim boss as well after Benitez was sacked on Sunday.

Belgium, ranked No 1 in the world, blocked that plan.

Unless Martinez can persuade his employers to change their minds, he faces staying put at international level rather than returning to Goodison.

Wayne Rooney and current assistant Duncan Ferguson are also on chairman Farhad Moshiri’s shortlist.

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