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Former Arsenal defender and Captain Thomas Vermaelen joined AS Roma on a season-long loan deal from Barcelona.

The La Liga champion’s defender had recently been linked with a return to the Gunners following a long-term injury to the German and Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker, but the Belgian defender has now made an initial loan switch to Serie A with Roma retaining the option to buy him back next summer.

The Belgian in Barcelona made just seven league starts at the Nou Camp since leaving the Emirates stadium for £15million in August 2014.

An official statement release on the La Liga giant’s website read, “FC Barcelona and AS Roma have reached an agreement for the loan of Belgian defender Thomas Vermaelen for the 2016/17 season.”

“The Italian club contractually agrees that the participation of the player remains active during the loan. The agreement includes an option for Roma to buy the player at the end of the 2016/17 season.”

Luciano Spalletti confirmed on Saturday that Roma were attempting to strike a deal for the Barca defender, saying,

“Vermaelen is a player with experience and quality. He can build the play from the back and has great character.”

“These players are used to playing important European matches.”