Does Thomas Vermaelen deserve to start for Barcelona?

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Thomas Vermaelen had become something of a laughing stock in football circles.

A player who, for all of his defensive excellence, just couldn't stay off of the treatment table long enough to be able to showcase his talent.

It was the reason why Arsene Wenger allowed his captain to leave Arsenal.


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Perhaps with the foresight to know that the Belgian wasn't far from another period on the sidelines, the Frenchman bagged Barca's £15 million in double-quick time, thank you very much.

Looking back, Andoni Zubizarreta's rubber-stamping of the deal for the Catalans against the advice of Barca's club doctors, was a hugely regrettable decision.

A year on the sidelines couldn't have been foreseen but trying to fast track him to fitness was only ever going to be catastrophic for the player.

Fast forward 12 months and the scenario is much different.

Long journey to fitness

Vermaelen has been allowed to recuperate at his own pace. Working on his own for much of the year, his has been a long, lonely journey back to fitness.

Yet the fact that he has got there says much about the determination and mental fortitude the player possesses.

Lesser exponents would've thrown in the towel long ago. Not Vermaelen.

He hasn't become a fixture in the Belgian national team by giving up at the first sign of problems. What doesn't kill us makes us stronger - phraseology that Vermaelen has surely applied in his darkest hours.

New possibilities

A full pre-season has done wonders for the player's confidence and overall fitness, and once it became clear that Gerard Pique wouldn't feature in the first four La Liga matches of the season, it opened up new possibilities for Vermaelen.

In the opening two games, the Belgian has been a tower of strength at the back for Barcelona. Solid, left-footed centre-backs are rare in today's game and Vermaelen has served noticed that he isn't done yet.

The winning goal against Malaga underscored a man-of-the-match showing and two 90-minute appearances for his country have since been negotiated safely, meaning Luis Enrique receives him back into the fold in the best condition.

Toughest test to come

As such, the manager will have no qualms in seeing Vermaelen partner Javier Mascherano again in what is Barca's toughest test so far this season - a date at the Vicente Calderon with Atletico Madrid, a team tied with Barca and others at the top of La Liga with six points.

Whisper it quietly... Barca's fan base won't be unhappy at seeing Vermaelen installed either, and that certainly wouldn't have happened even just a few short weeks ago.

With two more games until Pique's return, Vermaelen has 180 minutes to continue a perfect start to the season.

Should he do so, he leaves Enrique with an almighty problem. Who would drop him on this sort of form?

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