Barcelona defender Thomas Vermaelen has suffered another injury setback that is likely to rule him out for the rest of the 2014/15 campaign.
The Belgium international is yet to make his competitive debut for the Catalan club, since moving to Camp Nou from Arsenal in a £15 million deal last summer.
Vermaelen had recently returned to light training with Blaugrana physio Xavi Linde, but according to the Daily Mail the 29-year-old has been forced to halt his recovery after complaining of further muscle pain.
After undergoing surgery on a thigh problem in Finland back in December, the former Gunners captain began patiently working on his rehabilitation with a view to making a playing comeback in Luis Enrique's side before the end of the season.
However, it now looks as though the player - whose career has been blighted by injury over the past two-and-a-half years - now looks set for another extended period on the treatment table, much to the frustration of Barcelona directors.
Former sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta was sacked in January, partly for his failure to resolve the club's central defensive shortage. His decision to negotiate a deal for Vermaelen already looks like being a bad one, particularly in hindsight of the troubles he's experienced since moving to Spain in August.
The centre-back's rotten injury record has not been a secret, he struggled with a hamstring problem at the World Cup in Brazil after missing a large portion of his final season at the Emirates Stadium.
Arsene Wenger decided the time was right to cash-in on his ex-skipper when Barcelona came calling last summer, after failing to provide the Belgian with assurances of regular first-team football in north London.
With Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny established as the French tactician's first-choice pairing, the former Ajax academy graduate had already fallen down the pecking order and so opted for a new challenge in La Liga.
Vermaelen made his debut in a friendly alongside fellow summer signing Luis Suarez against the Indonesia Under 19 team in September, but broke down again with injury less than two months later before he could make any inroads on Enrique's senior team.
Long road to recovery
After it was announced that the seriously fragile stopper would need to go under the knife again Barcelona maintained that Vermaelen could still return before the end of the campaign. But, this latest blow now raises doubts about that happening, and also prompts the question whether the player will ever make a full recovery again.
Arsenal fans: Didn't you get lucky? Arsene Wenger has been proven right to cash-in on Thomas Vermaelen last summer, even if he failed initially to bring in a replacement centre-back. Do you think the Belgium international will ever play again? And if so, can he rediscover his best form? Share your thoughts below...
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