Manchester United were willing to consider a shock January loan move for Thomas Vermaelen, until learning that the Barcelona defender's dire injury situation has not improved and he may still need surgery on a persistent thigh problem.
Vermaelen was a player Red Devils boss Louis van Gaal desperately wanted to sign last summer, viewing the former Arsenal captain as an experienced figure that can help shore up a leaky defence.
Van Gaal refused to meet Arsenal's demand to include Chris Smalling in a swap deal though, a decision which now looks like the right one as Barca struggle to work out what's best for their £15 million crock.
Barca admit worries over Vermaelen
Barcelona fans are still waiting to see Vermaelen make his debut for the La Liga giants, a farcical situation which has seen the ex-Gunners linchpin compared to Real Madrid flop Jonathan Woodgate by the unforgiving Catalan media.
The 29-year-old is now facing an anxious wait to find out if he needs an operation to repair his damaged thigh, with Barca sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta admitting: "We are worried for him and the medical staff are evaluating what's best. We don't know if Vermaelen is now going to need surgery. We are studying the situation."
Article continues below
Links with a Premier League return persist
Vermaelen has picked up a salary of £80,000-a-week ever since quite dubiously passing a medical at the Camp Nou, but if they can get him fit Barca are considering allowing their summer signing to leave on loan when the transfer window opens.
Given clear defensive deficiencies at United, Arsenal and even Liverpool it's hardly surprising that Vermaelen has attracted interest in a Premier League return, but he'll have to prove he's ready to play before any deal can go through.
The Daily Mail have today reported that United will not entertain any short-term move for Vermaelen regardless of any future fitness updates, with Red Devils chiefs preferring to focus their attention elsewhere.
United will wait until next summer if need be to land a new defensive linchpin and that man will not be Vermaelen, who must be willing a frustrating 2014 to draw to a swift close.