Former Arsenal defender Thomas Vermaelen made his long-awaited Barcelona debut on Saturday as the Catalans celebrated Xavi Hernandez’s final game at the club.
The Belgian international centre-back traded the Gunners for Barcelona last summer in a deal which left a number of observers scratching their heads.
It’s not that the 29-year-old isn’t a top player, but the £15 million fee which the North Londoners received is excessively high for a player with renowned injury problems.
Vermaelen only featured 14 times in the Premier League last season, and Barca knew they were buying a player who had not yet recovered from a setback received at the World Cup.
As such, an ensuing campaign of recovery was on the cards and surgery for a recurring hamstring injury in December put him out of action for at least a further four months.
However, after a long, long wait, Barca’s summer recruit has finally fully recovered and was rewarded with a debut start during Xavi’s last La Liga appearance at the Nou Camp on the final day of the season.
In a makeshift XI and playing alongside Marc Bartra at the heart of the defence, Vermaelen recorded one interception and two clearances while maintaining a 93.2% pass completion rate.
It was a positive performance, and his substitution after 60 minutes partly disrupted the hosts’ rhythm as they allowed the visitors to claw back a two-goal deficit to dramatically draw 2-2.