We mentioned it briefly yesterday, but it bears repeating: the always chaotic, nonsensical, and annoying silly season will not only beset itself upon us earlier, but with the transition in Roma’s leadership, we can expect a greater degree of rumors, both in sheer number and absurdity, as we approach the summer. So rather than discussing Unai Emery, Franck Kessie or Kostas Manolas yet again, though there is more on them coming later today, let’s focus on something concrete, the future of Thomas Vermaelen.
Starting last July, we tracked the Vermaelen-to-Roma rumors as intensely as any before it. Here was a player with a sterling resume who, though frequently injured, was fresh off a successful turn at Euro 2016 with Belgium. With his injuries seemingly behind him and no place for him in Luis Enrique’s Barcelona, Roma were ready to pounce.
Even with that solid three week run under his belt, there was reason to be cautious:
Sure, if you call 14 appearances over two seasons Messi-esque, then yes, he’s been fabulous. To call Vermaelen brittle would be an insult to the word itself. All told, TV has missed 48 matches since moving to Barcelona, some 240 days of missed action, having been held out by a myriad of maladies including calf, thigh and hamstring issues, the latter of which required surgery and kept him out for nearly 6 months on its own.
What’s more troubling are the nature of the injuries—calves, hamstrings and thighs—all areas that tend to linger; if these were clean breaks or ligament tears, honestly you’d have to feel better about his chances for long term recovery, right? Thighs and hamstrings have ruined many a career.
So that was the negative, obvious drawback to this move, here was my positive spin:
Vermaelen has decent size for a central defender, he’s left footed, can play out wide and has excellent touch for a defender, not to mention a penchant for scoring goals; there’s a reason Barcelona was so amped to get him in the first place. Vermaelen, when healthy—and that’s a big if—is a top notch defender, one who uses his speed and intelligence to snuff out attacks, while bringing poise, efficiency and precision to the attacking equation.
Well, guess which prophecy proved true? Not only did Vermaelen partially cost Roma their spot in the Champions League group stage and injure Mohamed Salah for three weeks, he missed a total of 17 games due to injuries, ranging from the usual suspect (calf strains) to the absurd (hand injuries).
This was a sunk cost every which way you slice it, Vermaelen did nothing in his 12 appearances to warrant Roma picking up his permanent option, as is being reported today. For Vermaelen it represents another wasted season, one that likely puts him on the fast track to MLS or some lower tier EPL team, while for Roma the Vermaelen experiment represents yet another gamble gone wrong.
But I’ll tell you what, I’d make this move nine times out of ten. At the end of the day, all it cost Roma was a few million in salary and the initial loan fee, but the deal itself was solid: they gave Vermaelen the chance to prove himself, to show that his Euro 2016 form was permanent.
While Vermaelen was ultimately found wanting, these are precisely the sort of moves Roma must make until they prove they are willing to shell out top dollar. It didn’t work out, but that doesn’t mean it was a bad move.