Barcelona defender Thomas Vermaelen has confirmed rumours that clubs chased his signature during the 2017 summer transfer window. The Blaugrana blocked an exit, though, with Everton one of the teams interested, according to The Sun's Gary Stonehouse.
Speaking to La Derniere Heure (via Stonehouse), the Belgium international explained his desire to leave:
"The club told me I couldn't leave, I had to stay despite the future of various clubs.
"Now I am not playing, so I am in a difficult situation. I can't play with Barca B, where I could get some form because the Spanish legislation doesn't allow it. It's a regrettable situation.
"Of course I would like to play more [club] football to be in a good rhythm with the national team.
"Vincent's (Kompany) not here and so I have a bigger chance of playing.
"It would be a positive, of course, if I could return to Barcelona having played some minutes, that way they'll see that I'm ready if they need me."
Vermaelen spent the 2016-17 season on loan with Roma, and while he started well for the Giallorossi, more injury concerns―as well as a silly red card against FC Porto―quickly saw him drop down the pecking order.
He has been an afterthought in Barcelona since returning from loan, but he did play 90 minutes for Belgium in the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Greece and impressed.
When healthy, the 31-year-old remains a good defender, with surprising scoring potential for a man who plays his position. His strength and athleticism are his best traits and would make him appealing to a club like Everton. According to Football Italia, Torino and Besiktas were also interested during the summer.
Barcelona don't have much depth at the centre-back position, however, with Gerard Pique and Samuel Umtiti expected to start the bulk of the matches when healthy and Javier Mascherano starting the season in solid form. Behind that trio, Vermaelen is the only experienced, designated central defender.
The Belgian's career in Catalonia has largely been forgettable, but when he has featured, he's been solid. He has also had a handful of great moments in the Blaugrana shirt, including scoring this winning goal in his second-ever match for the team:
Vermaelen seems a likely candidate to leave the club in January if the Catalans can bring in a replacement. At this stage of his career, he shouldn't cost interested clubs much, and the former Arsenal man is desperate for minutes to earn his spot in the national team selection for the World Cup.
Everton would make for a logical destination―providing manager Ronald Koeman can last that long or his replacement is also keen on Vermaelen.