Vermaelen joins Iniesta in Japan, Barcelona formalises Vissel Kobe partnership

On the day of a friendly match between the clubs, Thomas Vermaelen made the move from Barcelona to Vissel Kobe.

Thomas Vermaelen..."I can't wait to start."   -  Getty Images

Thomas Vermaelen has followed Andres Iniesta and David Villa to J. League club Vissel Kobe following the expiry of his contact with Barcelona.

The Japanese side announced the signing of its fourth former Barca player as the clubs, which were preparing to face each other in a pre-season match on Saturday, moved to formalise their growing links.

Read | Iniesta reunites with former Barcelona team-mates

Ahead of the friendly encounter, La Liga champion Barca and Vissel Kobe announced the agreement of a knowledge-sharing partnership spanning marketing, commercial and staff management practices. Scouting reports will also be shared and young players will have the opportunity to move between the clubs for training experience.

Vissel Kobe is owned by e-commerce company Rakuten, Barca's shirt sponsor and "main global partner" since 2017.

'Warm welcome'

Iniesta left Camp Nou for the J. League in 2018 and has since been joined by former team-mates Villa and Sergi Samper.

Belgium international Vermaelen is the latest beneficiary of the link following Barcelona's decision not to renew his deal for a sixth season. "When I came here, I had a very warm welcome and a lot of support," former Arsenal player Vermaelen said upon signing for his new club.

"I can't wait to start. I'm excited about it. I would like to do my best to improve the team."

Barca's clash with Vissel Kobe was its second pre-season outing, Ernesto Valverde's men having lost 2-1 to Chelsea earlier this week.