Former Arsenal captain edges closer to Barcelona debut

Thomas Vermaelen Pre FA Cup Press Conference

Injury-plagued Thomas Vermaelen has commenced group training with Barcelona.

A recurring hamstring problem, along with various other minor injury issues, has kept defender Thomas Vermaelen sidelined since making his £15 million move (per the BBC) from Arsenal last summer.

The injury, initially sustained at the 2014 World Cup while in action for Belgium against Russia in June, wasn't seen as any reason to prevent Barcelona completing their deal with Arsenal the following August, with the medical services at the Catalan club entirely satisfied with the detailed medical the player underwent.

Since then, however, and with one setback after another, 29-year-old Vermaelen and his club have been frustrated in attempts to resolve the ongoing injury problems, which eventually required surgery to correct.

On Wednesday, though, as reported by Catalan sports journal Mundo Deportivo, at long last, it appears there's light at the end of the tunnel for the Belgian international, who participated in group training with the Barcelona squad in the morning session.

Barcelona coaching staff and Vermaelen are now hopeful that a debut appearance with the first-team is now just a short time away, with a good possibility he could feature during the first couple of weeks of April, although there is an understandable desire not to force the player into action too soon.

This would provide manager Luis Enrique with a valuable additional defensive option in the crucial final stretch of the campaign, with Barcelona aiming to complete an ambitious treble of silverware in La Liga, Copa del Rey and the Champions League.

Here's a chronological look at the key points for Vermaelen, since suffering his initial injury and his recovery attempts since joining Barcelona from Arsenal:

22nd June 2014

Vermaelen suffered a semitendinosus muscle injury, one of the three hamstring muscles in the back of his right thigh, during the World Cup encounter between Belgium and Russia.

9th August 2014

Barcelona secured the signing of Vermaelen for a reported fee of £10 million, plus £5 million in variables, then passed an exhaustive medical the following day.

24th September 2014

Participated in a friendly for Barcelona B alongside Luis Suárez, playing at left-back for 63 minutes and scoring a goal against the Indonesian national team.

25th September 2014

Given the medical all clear by Barcelona medics and commenced full training with the first-team squad.

17th November 2014

Forced to stop training because no real progress was being made, even though he'd been training with the rest of the squad for several days.

2nd December 2015

Vermaelen jetted to Finland for specialist surgical treatment with Doctor Sakari Orava, who announced the intervention on his semitendinosus muscle was successful.

16th February 2015

The Belgian returns to training with focus on running exercises, apart from the first-team squad.

23rd February 2015

Vermaelen is obliged to take a pause from training, having suffered some muscle discomfort during recovery sessions. Intensity of his training regime reduced slightly.

5th March 2015

Vermaelen starts running again normally, with no discomfort or additional problems, under the watchful eye of Barcelona physiotherapist, Xavi Linde, who is tasked with specific focus on the Belgian's full recovery. He hints at the player being able to play within a month.

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