When Thomas Vermaelen expressed his desire to leave Arsenal this year, the news was met with mixed reviews. Many were sad at the thought of him moving to another club, whilst others were hopeful that this potential move would lead to a new world-class defender taking his place. Perhaps the biggest concern for Arsenal was that he might sign for Louis van Gaal’s Manchester United.
Worries of Vermaelen moving to Old Trafford were quashed when it was announced that he had passed his medical at the Nou Camp and was officially signing for Barcelona, and what a piece of transfer business that turned out to be.
He joined the Catalans for a transfer fee of £15m despite a struggling with a recurring thigh injury he picked up playing for Belgium in the World Cup. The injury was expected to be relatively short-term, but to date Vermaelen still hasn’t played a competitive game for Barcelona.
Enrique keeps the faith
Barcelona manager Luis Enrique, who also joined the club this year from Spanish side Celta Vigo, has publicly defended the signing of Vermaelen by explaining that the struggles brought about by this thigh injury were unforeseen.
Vermaelen’s inability to play questions the practicalities of signing the Gunners’ former captain, particularly when compared to another signing the Catalans made from the Premier League, Luis Suárez, whose match-winning prowess earned him many accolades last season, such as the PFA Player of the Season.
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However, Vermaelen remains a strong signing for Barcelona even though he has yet to feature competitively for them due to the experience he brings to the club and his individual skillset.
More importantly, Vermaelen captained the Gunners to win the highly coveted FA Cup last season, something that even Suarez could not achieve.
Overall, those familiar with Vermaelen will already be aware of the physical strength and awareness he can bring to a team defensively, but for those unaware it’s understandable to doubt Enrique’s new centre-back. Give him time, Barcelona fans, for he has the potential to live up to his £15m price tag and more.