Arsenal's Belgian defender Thomas Vermaelen (Photo: Reuters)
Barcelona have moved to strengthen their defence by agreeing to sign Belgium centre back Thomas Vermaelen from Arsenal on a five-year contract, the La Liga club said on Saturday.
Barca did not publish any financial details on their website (www.fcbarcelona.es) but Spanish media said they had agreed to pay about 19 million euros ($25.48 million) for Vermaelen.
The 28-year-old defender joined Arsenal in 2009 after a nine-year stint at Ajax Amsterdam and quickly became a fan favourite while also being promoted to club captain.
Vermaelen's career has been hampered by injury and he made only 21 appearances in the 2013-14 season after falling behind Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker in the pecking order.
Barca's defence was a weak point last season, when they failed to win major silverware for the first time in six years, and coach Gerardo Martino was replaced by former Barcelona and Spain midfielder Luis Enrique.
Vermaelen will compete for a place with Spain international Gerard Pique, Frenchman Jeremy Mathieu, who joined last month from Valencia, and Barca academy graduate Marc Bartra.
Javier Mascherano has mostly played in central defence since joining Barcelona from Liverpool in 2010 but after his performances in midfield for Argentina at the World Cup he is widely expected to feature there for the club next term.
Barca start the La Liga campaign, when they will be chasing a fifth title in seven years, at home to Elche on Aug. 24.
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