• Transfers

Official: Thomas Vermaelen leaves Barcelona for Vissel Kobe

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Thomas Vermaelen has ended his injury-barren spell at Barcelona for a fresh start at Vissel Kobe by signing a two-year deal.

Vermaelen had a largely disappointing five seasons at the Camp Nou, which saw him make just 53 appearances in all competitions upon completing a €19m transfer from Arsenal in 2014.

The Belgium international struggled to replicate his displays in the Gunners backline for Barcelona. Not helping matters were his frequent injury layoffs, with Vermaelen spending more than 500 days of his Blaugrana career sidelined.

Even a loan stint in Italy with AS Roma in 2016 proved to be of little benefit as he ended up playing just 607 minutes of football amid further injury problems.

Therefore, Barcelona decided to not offer Vermaelen a new contract this summer and allowed him to leave as a free agent in July.

Now Vissel Kobe have announced that the 33-year-old will be joining former Barcelona players Andres Iniesta, David Villa and Sergi Samper in Japan.

“First of all, thank you. I’m very excited [about this move],” Vermaelen told the club’s website.

“When I arrived, I received such a warm welcome and a lot of support. I can’t wait to get started.

“I hope to do my best to help improve the team. We think Vissel Kobe will improve. Thank you.”

Vissel Kobe will certainly be hoping Vermaelen will help strengthen their shaky defence as they have the J-League’s second-worst defensive record with 36 conceded goals.

Scoring goals, on the other hand, hasn’t been an issue with the team boasting the Japanese league’s third-best record on 30 goals.

But Thorsten Fink’s side know they need to up their game in the backline, with just three points separating them from relegation in a lowly 15th-place in the 18-team league table.

Despite their domestic struggles, however, Vissel Kobe can look forward to a thrilling encounter with Barcelona on Saturday.

While it remains uncertain if Vermaelen will line-up against his old club, Iniesta, Villa and Samper are set to feature in the match.

Meanwhile, Vermaelen’s old Arsenal team-mate Lukas Podolski may also make an appearance.