Current captain of FA Cup winners Arsenal, Thomas Vermaelen finds himself on the precipice of a move away from The Emirates stadium having fallen down the pecking order at The Gunners thanks to the stellar form of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny during their 2013/14 campaign.
Vermaelen was an instant hit for Arsenal when he signed for the club back in 2009 for an initial fee of £10million. Partnering then captain William Gallas, Vermaelen opened his scoring for Arsenal on his debut against Everton in a 1-6 away win, setting the precedent for being a goalscoring defender.
Scoring eight goals in 45 games during his breakthrough season at Arsenal, the Belgian international was voted player of the month twice by Gunners fans, before injury struck during the 2010/11 campaign, restricting him to just five appearances. Upon his return he was immediately considered an integral player in the Arsenal set-up and was named vice-captain behind Robin van Persie.
His pace, strength and confidence on the ball made him one of the most revered defenders in the league and made him a lynchpin in the Arsenal team during the 2011/12 season. Forming a solid partnership with new recruit Laurent Koscielny, Vermaelen was described as a ‘defensive rock’ by coach Arsene Wenger towards the tail end of the campaign.
With the departure of Robin van Persie to Manchester United, Vermaelen was name Arsenal captain, a move which seemed to signal the beginning of the end for the Belgian international. Dropped from the starting 11 following a string of poor performances, Vermaelen was quickly replaced by German international Per Mertesacker and has found it nearly impossible to carve his way back into the first team and has seemingly decided that this summer is to be his last as an Arsenal player.
Who’s Interested? Manchester United
Thomas Vermaelen’s versatility has seen him playing at center half or left back for both club and country. A player of his adaptability would be ideal for a Manchester United side essentially building their defence from the ground up following a summer of departures which saw the lion’s share of the Red Devil’s defensive line leaving for new challenges.
At 29, Vermaelen could provide a much-needed injection of experience to this Manchester United team and could find himself in a similar position to the one he found himself in during the early phase of his Arsenal career. Potentially partnering Chris Smalling, Vermaelen’s confidence on the ball could instill the kind play from the back mentality that Louis Van Gaal is known for. His versatility could also pay dividends if the Dutch coach decides to completely adopt the back three formation he has been working with in pre-season.
Who’s interested? Barcelona
With the retirement of Carles Puyol, Barcelona are looking for a centre half to partner Gerard Pique and provide a similar ‘bulldog’ approach to the game the club legend was famous for.
Vermaelen’s pace and ability to play the ball out seem purpose built for this Barcelona squad and at only 6’0″, would actually be adding height to a central defence that has become accustomed to the 6′ 10” of legend Puyol.
Words by Ben Fawcett