Thomas Vermaelen proving his true worth in Samuel Umtiti absence

When Samuel Umtiti pulled his hamstring against Celta Vigo on 2nd of December, Barcelona fans were really tensed. It meant one of their most reliable player won't be present in near future.

Umiti signed for Barcelona from French side Lyon for £22 million in 2016. It was highly regarded as an investment by Catalans though the French international established himself at the heart of defence at Camp Nou.

Coming into 2017-18 season, his partnership with Gerard Pique is adjudged as one of the deadliest defensive duo's in Spanish premier division. Before the injury layoff, Samuel Umtiti along with Pique and Ter Stegen conceded the lowest amount of goals in top five European leagues. The numbers are enough to describe his importance - but football is a game of surprises and chance.

With Umtiti's injury, many expected Javier Mascherano to replace the French international. It came as a shock when name of Thomas Vermaelen popped up the Valverde's team sheet.

Yerry Mina has been signed for €12M but, as we explained in our latest podcast, there are a few questions marks the Colombian needs to address:

After his move to Barcelona, the former Arsenal skipper has failed to impress - not only in Catalan colours but also when being loaned out for some first team football at Rome. He was seen as a downgrade and basically featured in League Cup games. He was almost written off from being a top level professional.

Barcelona penned Thomas Vermaelen five-year contract in 2014 after completing his transfer from English giants Arsenal for reported £15 million. He was tagged to be the 'next big thing' at the heart of defence. Expectations were sky high and pressure was presumably the same. The Belgian International couldn't really cope with the input at Camp Nou as was soon injured. Since then Vermaelen's career has been pestered by injuries.

With only one appearance under his belt at his first season at Barcelona things began to look itchy. The hurdle to appearance was not his performance but his injuries. At this point of time, Mathieu had overtook Vermaelen at central defence and the later looked far from becoming a regular.

With limited playing time, Barcelona were quick to offload him on-loan to Italy. Thomas played for Roma for one-season but the story had no twist yet, the same run of poor performance continued to haunt Vermaelen.

Despite of run of poor performances at club level, he did not disappoint representing his nation - Belgium. The 32-year-old has earned himself 63 Belgian caps and will certainly go into World Cup at Russia with the same focal point.

Change of management at Nou Camp meant there lay some chance for Thomas Vermaelen to impress his new boss Ernesto Valverde and cement his place in first-team. But, as noted earlier Samuel Umtiti and Gerard Pique are the obvious first choice at hear of defence. Fate favoured Thomas and things were about to change quickly.

At the moment:

Thomas Vermaelen has made an impact alongside Gerard Pique, showing what Barcelona brought him for from Arsenal couple of years back.

He has been a regular in recent Barcelona fixtures and his performance shows that avoiding injuries would give him some real shot at having a future under Catalan outfit.

Thomas has been solid at the centre and you could watch him shouting and screaming and throwing orders, you could take a Thomas Vermaelen out of being a Captain but you can't take Captain out of him.

He is a natural leader and his most note able performance came against Real Madrid. He was well organised against the offensive threats as well as stood as a wall on counters.

If Thomas Vermaelen keeps up to this performance, he will certainly give some selection dilemma and probably start ahead of Samuel Umtiti for a reasonable period of time.

By Utsav Metha

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