Soccer / J. League

Former Barcelona, Arsenal defender Vermaelen joins Vissel Kobe

Belgium international defender Thomas Vermaelen on Saturday become the latest high-profile European player to join J. League side Vissel Kobe.

Vissel introduced the 33-year-old center-back at a news conference at Kobe’s Noevir Stadium ahead of a friendly against his former club Barcelona.

Vermaelen arrived on a free transfer after his contract with the Spanish champions expired.

He joins former Barca players Andres Iniesta, David Villa and Sergi Samper at Vissel, along with German World Cup winner Lukas Podolski.

A member of the Belgian team which finished third at last year’s World Cup in Russia, Vermaelen started his professional career with Ajax before playing more than 100 games for Arsenal.

Despite their star-studded lineup, Vissel, who appointed former Hamburger SV boss Thorsten Fink as manager in June, is one place above the relegation zone in 15th.