Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde has refused to rule out the possibility of signing a new defender in January despite hailing the performance of Thomas Vermaelen in the thrilling 1-1 draw at Valencia on Sunday (26 November).
During the summer transfer window it was said that Valverde asked the board to sign Inigo Martinez from Real Sociedad to bolster the heart of the back-line following the departure of Jeremy Mathieu.
But Barcelona opted against making investing in a new defensive addition and instead recalled Vermaelen from his unsuccessful loan spell at AS Roma to serve as a back-up for Gerard Pique, Samuel Umtiti and Javier Mascherano.
The decision came under question with the 32-year-old centre-half having struggled with different injuries since being brought to the Nou Camp from Arsenal in the summer of 2014.
Valverde did not initially seem to have much faith in the former Arsenal centre-back after giving him only one appearance in the Copa del Rey during the first three months of the campaign.
However, the Barcelona boss said the opposite in public while insisting that he was happy with the options at his disposal.
Last month Valverde indeed said that the La Liga leaders will not sign a centre-back in January unless any of his current defenders depart or suffer a major injury.
But his intentions may have changed after the Valencia game where he was forced to give Vermaelen his first La Liga start due to the absences of both Pique and Mascherano through suspension and injury respectively.
Valverde insists that Barcelona are open to bolstering the squad in January and that could also include the arrival of a new defender.
"We have already said it several times. I'm happy with the team. As the days have progressed, we are avoiding the difficulties. We have been our Champions League group as leaders. We have qualified for the next round and we have already achieved out first target. But, despite being happy with my squad, we are a club that always has to be attentive to the transfer window. Based on that, on the possibilities [of the market], the needs of the team and what may happen, we will look [if it's necessary to sign anyone in January]," Valverde said in the press conference ahead of the Copa del Rey clash with Valencia.
Pressed specifically whether Pique's and Mascherano's latest blows might force him to sign a new defender in January, he added: "In defence? Well, we are always open to every possibility which can emerge in any area. But I' m not going to analyse line by line."
But the Barcelona boss did praise Vermaelen's response against Valencia after pointing out that it was not easy for the Belgium international to replace Pique in such a big game.
"I think he played really well against Valencia. He had a difficult job, coming into the team in such an important game, making his first appearance in the league [this season], but he responded like the player he is," Valverde added when asked about Vermaelen. "He did well in the challenge, marking... was good bringing the ball out. It was a complete performance."