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Getting to Know: Thomas Vermaelen

A look at the career path Thomas Vermaelen took before joining Barcelona.

David Ramos/Getty Images

Full name: Thomas Vermaelen
Squad No.: 23
Position: Defender
Date of birth: 14 November 1985
Place of birth: Kapellen, Belgium
Height: 1.83 m (6 ft 0 in)
Weight: 80 kg (176 lbs)

Born in the small town of Kapellen, Belgium, just north of Antwerp, a young Thomas Vermaelen was quickly introduced to the game of football. He joined the youth setup of Germinal Ekeren, now known as Germinal Beerschot, at the early age of six, and he steadily managed to progress through the ranks. At the age of 15 he was noticed by scouts from the most successful club from Holland, Ajax. Vermaelen joined Ajax in 2000 and spent another three seasons honing his skills with the under-age teams in Ajax's famed academy.

Vermaelen made his first team debut on 15 February 2004 against FC Volendam in the Eredivisie, the Dutch First League. That would be the Belgian's only first team appearance that season. The next year he was sent on loan to RKC Waalwijk, another team in the Eredivisie. Vermaelen didn't play much for a team that finished mid-table, he made 14 appearances, though he did help out on offense with two goals, Ajax had seen enough from their youngster to hold onto him the next season, in fact they held onto him for the next four seasons. During those four seasons Vermaelen became a member of the starting lineup and was even named captain toward the end of his stint in Holland, though he sporadically missed games due to various injuries.

Despite those injury concerns Arsenal saw enough quality in Vermaelen to shell out €10 million, which later rose to €12 million. Vermaelen was quickly entrusted with a starting role and he repaid those sentiments by scoring on his Premier League debut on 15 August 2009 against Everton. He continued to impress on both ends of the pitch that season, scoring what is still a career high eight goals and playing good defense, earning him the nickname "Verminator" and a place in the PFA Team of the Year. Sadly, however, that is still considered his best season to date, mostly because the rest were marred by injuries.

Vermaelen only made five appearances in his sophomore season due to an Achilles tendon injury that, after a couple of setbacks, took just about the entire season to heal. Vermaelen would have more problems with that same injury the following year, missing another two months. For his leadership abilities he was named captain for the 2012-13 season, but due to the many injuries his form dropped and toward the end of the season he spent many games watching from the bench. It was more of the same the next year, his last season for the Gunners. When Vermaelen wasn't on the sidelines nursing injuries, he was sitting on the bench. In five seasons in England, Vermaelen made 150 appearances for Arsenal, a mere 30 per season, though he managed to score an impressive 15 goals in that time.

Arsenal unloaded their oft-injured captain to Barcelona for an initial €10 million, which could grow to €18.75 million. Even though Vermaelen has been in Barcelona for eight months he has not played a single minute for the first team due to a recurring hamstring injury. The Belgian only played in a Barcelona B friendly game in December.

Vermaelen has been ever present on the international stage since he made his debut for the Belgian U-18 team. He went on to take part in European Championships at the U-19 and U-21 level. Vermaelen took part in 30 games for the youth selections, scoring one goal. At the age of 20 he debuted on the senior level against Luxembourg and has since worn the Belgian badge on his chest 47 times, scoring a single goal in the process


Naturally a half-back, but being left-footed Vermaelen can easily slot into the left-back position, where he has enough speed to offer support in attack. An excellent tackler, Vermaelen reads the play very well and, even though he lacks some height compared to other central defenders, is a force in the air game. His jumping ability also translates to the attack where he's been known to torment opposing defenders and goalkeepers.


AFC Ajax

  • Eredivisie (1): 2003-04
  • KNVB Cup (2): 2005-06, 2006-07
  • Johan Cruijff Shield (2): 2006, 2007

Arsenal FC

  • FA Cup (1): 2013-2014


  • PFA Premier League Team of the Year (1): 2009-10

Vermaelen is currently in the first year of the five year deal he signed upon joining FC Barcelona, a contract that will run out in 2019.

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