Barcelona must surely rue the day when they signed ex-Arsenal captain Thomas Vermaelen.
Apparently against the strict advice of Barca's club doctors, Andoni Zubizarreta went ahead and brought the 28-year-old to the club, no doubt with the thought of an 18 month transfer ban in the back of his mind.
In many respects, "Zubi" was damned if he did sign Vermaelen - given he was injured at the time (so he passed the medical how exactly?!) - and damned if he didn't because of the ban.
Dearth of centre-backs
It certainly wasn't his or the clubs fault that no other central defenders appeared willing to join during the period or that their clubs were unwilling to sell. Top quality centre-backs are few and far between these days, especially those with the skill set that Barca require.
Financial issues would've only been the problem because you simply don't turn down a club of Barcelona's stature.
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Knives out from the beginning
Although the knives were out even before the ink had dried on the Belgian's transfer, there also appeared to be a school of thought along the lines of "wiping the slate clean" and giving Vermaelen a chance, hoping that the injury concerns which had blighted the latter stages of his Arsenal career were a thing of the past.
Lining up alongside Luis Suarez, in a behind closed doors La Masia friendly against an invitational Indonesian XI, Vermaelen looked every inch the consummate Barca centre-back.
Calm on the ball, his presence was easy on the eye and anyone watching couldn't have failed to have been impressed. However, it remains to date the only time he has got onto the pitch for anything like a competitive game.
With the latest news that Vermaelen will need to go to Finland for surgery and will be out, most likely, for the entire season, Barca will need to consider their options.
An emergency request has already landed on FIFA's doormat, but it's unclear at this juncture whether such a request can be acceded to, given the transfer ban. Whether or not that is the case, by the time the Belgian is fit again, we will probably be looking at August 2015 at the earliest.
It's likely that Vermaelen will have missed the boat by then, and could become the first ever Barca player to sign and never play a senior match. Even Alfredo di Stefano managed to play in a friendly for the Catalans before Santiago Bernabeu took him to Real Madrid.
What a mess!
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