Thomas Vermaelen PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ

He was born in Belgium, but brought up through the Ajax academy in Amsterdam. And, as a good disciple of the Ajax youth system, Thomas Vermaelen (Kapellen, Belgium, 14 November 1985), the second Belgian player in Barça history, following Fernand Goyvaerts (1961-1965) is a central defender who can take the ball out of defence, is tactically very good, and is a strong tackler. As well as his defensive presence, the 28 year old defender is also known for possessing great vision. This is why the Belgian international can not only play at the centre of the defence, but also has the natural ability to play at left-back.

He’s a versatile player who has played in two of the most important European leagues, like the Dutch and the English, in order to gain experience and become a top central defender. For some time now he has been an important figure in the dressing room, because he was captain of both Ajax and Arsenal.

He made his professional debut when he was 19, with Ajax on 15 February 2004, against Volendam. After a period on loan at RKC Waalwijk, Vermaelen returned to the club that he was at 2000, as a regular in the starting line-up. In Holland, he began to win titles, and up until his move to London, had won the Eredivisie league title, two Dutch Cups and two Dutch Supercups.

During the summer of 2008, he became captain of the team from Amsterdam, and a year later Arsene Wenger signed him for Arsenal. From the outset, Vermaelen showed what he is capable of, and on his debut in the Premier League he scored his first goal for the ‘Gunners’. At Arsenal he became well known as a strong defender and also a goalscorer, and, during  his first season with the club, he was voted in the ideal team of the English Premier. It was in 2012, when, with the departure of Robin van Persie, his leadership skills allowed him to become team captain. He’s now leaving the London team with an FA Cup winners medal (2013/14)

This summer, despite the odd injury, nothing would prevent him from taking part in the World Cup in Brazil with the Belgian national team, for whom he has won 46 caps. Considered one of the best Belgian defenders of his generation, he made his debut with the national team at the age of 20, on 1 March 2006, and was a cornerstone of his team in qualifying for the 2014 World Cup

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