Injury has once again derailed the season of Belgian defender Thomas Vermaelen.
The Barcelona centre-back has a long history of time away from the pitch and 2017/18 was no different. Vermaelen missed a total of 14 games for the Blaugrana, enough for many to label his campaign another case of lost opportunity but despite his medical woes Vermaelen was a solid addition in defence when fit.
Early in the season it looked as though his fragile reputation might finally be coming to an end when he put together a run of ten straight games. Spanish outlet AS were one of many to proclaim that his run of bad luck might finally be coming to an end.
“The Belgian has played every match for the LaLiga leaders since 26 November, when he lined up in a top-of-the-table clash against Valencia. That run of games includes six league matches, three in the Copa del Rey, and one in the Champions League.
“Taking the Copa match away at Murcia in to account, Vermaelen has played 11 matches in the 2017-18 season. If he features for Barça at Anoeta on Sunday evening, he will equal the amount of games he played in 2016-17 while on loan at AS Roma.”
Source | AS
It was during this run of unexpected vitality that the Belgian showed his true class, and it was never more evident than when playing out of the back.
Vermaelen ranked second in all of La Liga in 2017/18 for pass success percentage amongst players with ten or more appearances and his combination with Gerard Pique when Samuel Umtiti was unavailable showed just how valuable he can be for Barcelona. There’s little doubt that he is an elite player when fit but that’s where the problem inherently lies.
Unfortunately, Vermaelen’s body has never been kind to him and at 32-years-of-age his peak has likely come and gone which poses a number of questions about his future at the club.
Should his decline come at a rapid pace-like that of many players his age-then it stands to reason that he should be let go by the club but with little depth at his position, that could also prove to be costly.
The future of the centre-half is likely to be dictated by the transfer market in the coming months. Should Barcelona manage to sign Clement Lenglet, there would be an overabundance of left-footed centre-backs. Lenglet, Vermaelen and Umtiti are all left-footed, Yerry Mina and Gerard Pique are the right-footers.
Lenglet’s arrival is likely to mean that one of Mina or Vermaelen would leave. Mina has been heavily linked with a move away but his departure would leave the Barcelona defence unbalanced with Pique as the only right-footer.
There’s no question that Barcelona have a big choice to make regarding the future of their defence. What do you think, should they keep, loan or sell Vermaelen?
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