Thomas Vermaelen served as Arsenal's captain but a lack of first-team opportunities has led to his departure to Barcelona.
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By Alexander Abnos
August 09, 2014

Barcelona has completed its anticipated capture of Belgian defender Thomas Vermaelen, with the club announcing it has signed the Arsenal captain to a five-year contract at Camp Nou.

Despite his captaincy, Vermaelen found himself below Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny in the pecking order in North London, and had been angling for a move away from the club through the summer. Manchester United was also in the running for his signature, but Barcelona offered a better fee (up to $25 million, according to multiple reports) as well as a longer contract (Manchester United reportedly offered four years). There is also the not-inconsequential matter of Arsenal not wishing to sell to a Premier League rival, as it did with Robin Van Persie. 

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Instead, Vermaelen will head to Barcelona, where his presence will help shore up a back line that struggled through last season and lost its most experienced leader, Carles Puyol, to retirement in the offseason. Vermaelen will join a central defensive corps that includes Gerard Pique, Marc Bartra and potentially Javier Mascherano if new Barça boss Luis Enrique elects to play the Argentinian there instead of his more natural role in defensive midfield. 

Arsenal will now be chasing a replacement for Vermaelen ahead of its Premier League opener on August 16 vs. Crystal Palace. Barcelona opens its La Liga campaign the following weekend, on August 24 against Elche.