It was a very long road, but Thomas Vermaelen is finally ready to play for Barcelona.
Among the big news of a UEFA Champions League semifinal draw with Bayern Munich, along with the attention that every Catalan derby against Espanyol deserves, many didn't notice that the Belgian defender has been given the medical clearance for the first time in five months.
Vermaelen's original injury happened 10 months ago, when he was at the World Cup with Belgium. He signed with Barça still injured, and he wasn't expected to debut soon. He then started to find some hurdles on the road, and his return date was getting pushed further down the calendar, week after week. There was some hope in mid-October, when he played 60 minutes of a Barça B friendly against the Indonesian U-19 team, the first game in which he and Luis Suárez appeared in a Blaugrana uniform.
But things took a turn for the worse, and the center-back re-injured his groin. He decided to attack the problem surgically, which happened in the middle of December. Early reports claimed that he would be out for the season, but the rehab was promising. He started running in February, way ahead of schedule, and everything indicated that the surgery finally solved the problem.
As Barça entered its April Marathon, Vermaelen started to work out with the group more frequently in training sessions. For the past two weeks, he trained for the entire sessions, without any setbacks, which gave him, the medical staff and coach Luis Enrique the confidence that they could have his services this season.
Now that Vermaelen is cleared, it is time to find out when is he going to play. The most obvious choice would be this Tuesday, when Barça hosts the struggling Getafe in the second-to-last match of this exhausting month of football. Guys like Gerard Piqué and Javier Mascherano would benefit from a little rest against one of the league's most anemic offenses, and the opportunity presents itself for Vermaelen to make his official Barcelona debut against a weak team in front of the Camp Nou crowd.
It is now in Luis Enrique's hands. But the roster is finally full. The Verminator is ready for action.