Thomas Vermaelen believes his recent resurgence for Barcelona has proved he is not “made of glass”.
Vermaelen put three years of playing as a backup and struggling with injuries to start Barca’s last six games following an injury to Samuel Umtiti.
The former Arsenal defender has gone on to win acclaim for his performances, his unbeaten run in La Liga extended to 16 appearances.
After many injuries and hard work, you have returned to a great level. How do you feel?
Vermaelen: “I’m very happy. I had to very patient because the start was very difficult. The competitions Barça play in are tough and it’s not easy to get minutes with a team full of cracks. I set my mind to be patient and to work hard when I wasn’t physically the best. I just focused on my goals; I didn’t open my mouth. I wanted to fight hard for any opportunities that presented itself. Luckily, that opportunity arrived a few weeks ago.”
After so much inactivity, your performances have surprised many. Are you also surprised?
Vermaelen: “Of course. I always trusted my chances but you never know how things would turn out because I had no continuity with Barça. I know that I had the capacity to play for Barça, but in the previous years, due to injuries, I had wasn’t able to show what I was capable of. Luckily, in the last few weeks, I’ve been able to prove it and I’m very happy about it.”
With so many injuries, there was doubt that you could injure yourself at any point. How are you physically?
Vermaelen: “I understand that among people there were doubts about my physical condition, because in recent years I have had a few physical problems. But since November 2016, I have not had any more problems and I’ve been feeling good for a year. I know I have a reputation as a crystal player, but I have managed to overcome and prevent it. Now I am demonstrating that I can be without injuries for a long and I hope to keep it that way.”
Where did you find support during all times you were injured?
Vermaelen: “Especially in my family and my friends, who have helped me since the first day and I am very grateful. But there have also been fans who have always helped me. These type of people always help you to keep on fighting.”
You had the opportunity to play your first Clásico. Did you prepare for it in any special way?
Vermaelen: “No, the preparation was the same as if it were another game, but obviously in your head you know that it’s a very special game, in which everyone will be looking at you.
Was this your first game against Cristiano?
Vermaelen: “No, I played against him in Belgium vs. Portugal game.”
According to those who say you play at the Bernabéu, you did not seem to be afraid.
Vermaelen: “Fear is not a good word in football. Of course you need to know the qualities of your opponent, but you always have to set in your mind that you can beat them.”
How was your first Clásico experience at the Bernabéu?
Vermaelen: “I was very happy playing in maybe the biggest match in the world and leaving the field with a 0-3 victory makes you never forget that day.”
After your brilliant victory at the Bernabéu, you’re 14 points ahead of Madrid. Is the league over?
Vermaelen: “No, the league is not yet won. It’s a big advantage, but we have not yet reached the halfway point of the season.”
What does it mean to train and play next to Leo Messi?
Vermaelen: “I feel very honored to play in the same team with the best player in history. It’s a pleasure to see him every day in training and matches.”
One of things that went viral on social media from the Clásico was seeing your children celebrating your starting position.
Vermaelen: “I was very surprised. My wife sent me the video after the game and I thought it was very amusing. We will keep this video forever and we’ll show it to them when they are older.”
Thoughts on social media?
Vermaelen: “For me, it’s very important to have communication with the fans so they can get to know you. I think that the people who follow you have the right to know what’s happening.”