Xavi presented Vermaelen with a signed shirt / PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB

Thomas Vermaelen was delighted with his team-mates' gesture / PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB

Thomas Vermaelen started work at the Ciutat Esportiva on Monday on the long road to recovery from his operation last week on the semitendinosus muscle in his right hamstring. Before Sunday’s derby with Espanyol, his team-mates surprised him by appearing for the warm-up wearing a shirt printed with words of encouragement for their colleague.

Xavi Hernàndez presented him with one of the shirts, which all of the players had signed. “I knew nothing about it and it was as huge surprise” said the Belgian this morning. “I am very grateful to my team-mates for the way they showed their support with this shirt. It has given me strength for the next few weeks.”

After the 5-1 win over Espanyol, Vermaelen thanked the rest of team on social networks. “The last few months have been difficult because I’ve not managed to recover and that’s why I made the decision to operate” he said. “I am very focused and my objective is to recover as soon as possible.

Great win, congrats guys! I would like to thank the team @fcbarcelona for their amazing support. Much appreciated! pic.twitter.com/rKexMHz4gt

— Thomas Vermaelen (@thomasvermaelen) December 7, 2014