Vermaelen adds to Barça's Belgian collection

By penning a five-year deal with FC Barcelona, Thomas Vermaelen will become the first Belgian to pull on the Blaugrana jersey since forward Fernand Goyvaerts.

Thomas Vermaelen poses for photos at the Camp Nou
Thomas Vermaelen poses for photos at the Camp Nou ©Getty Images

By joining FC Barcelona from Arsenal FC, Thomas Vermaelen will become only the second Belgian in almost 50 years to pull on the Blaugrana jersey.

The cultured centre-back – unveiled as a Barcelona player on Saturday – follows in the footsteps of the late Fernand Goyvaerts, who featured for the Catalan club between 1962 and 1965. Goyvaerts had made his name at Club Brugge KV, converting the penalty that sealed their place in the Eerste Klasse in 1959. His ice-cool spot kick lives long in the memory given that Brugge have plied their trade in the top flight ever since.

Technically proficient from his days playing street and beach football, the Brugge fans' favourite soon expressed a desire to play abroad. His wish was granted when Barcelona paid a reported €125,000 for his services – an astronomical fee in Belgium at the time. 

It was not a dream start for Goyvaerts, however, with South American trio Luis Cubilla, Cayetano Ré and Juan Seminario blocking his path to the first team. "Only two foreign players were allowed in the lineup and the others were allowed to play due to their Spanish ancestry," Goyvaerts later explained. "I was unlucky because I only had a Polish grandmother."

Goyvaerts established himself the following season under coach Ladislao Kubala and was voted best foreign player in the Liga, prompting a move to Real Madrid CF, where his stay was beset by injury. After spells with Elche CF, OGC Nice and Cercle Brugge KSV among others, the eight-time Belgian international coached White Star Lauwe and later, as an agent, was instrumental in taking Daniël Amokachi and Jean-Pierre Papin to Club Brugge. 

"The idea to go in that direction [working as football agent] rather than coaching grew during my time in Spain, where the profession had been carried out for years," Goyvaerts, who passed away in April 2004 in Brugge, once revealed.