Barcelona have confirmed that new signing Thomas Vermaelen, who was linked with Manchester United, could miss the start of the season after joining the club with a hamstring injury picked up at the World Cup.
Vermaelen damaged the muscle in Belgium's 1-0 group stage win over Russia two months ago and continues to suffer from the problem, despite passing a medical ahead of clinching his move to the Nou Camp.
The former Arsenal captain suffered from a succession of back and knee problems last season and joined Barca with a reputation for being injury prone, and this latest problem is likely to see him miss the start of the La Liga campaign.
"Thomas Vermaelen injured his right hamstring during the World Cup in June," a club statement read. "The player will undergo physiotherapy, and the evolution of the injury will determine when he returns to training."
While the news is a blow to Barcelona's hopes of reclaiming domestic dominance in Spain under new boss Luis Enrique, United – with whom Vermaelen was so strongly linked – will likely be breathing a huge sigh of relief.
United were only willing to offer Vermaelen, 28, a three-year deal while Barcelona's five-year package was enough to sway the Belgian into leaving the Premier League.
Though Louis van Gaal is in desperate need of additional defenders, Vermaelen's injury would be provided huge frustration to United, who are attempting to return to the Champions League this season.
Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand's departures have left United with only three recognised senior centre-backs in Chris Smalling, Jonny Evans and Phil Jones, with Van Gaal having identified the area as requiring significant surgery in the summer transfer window.
"Manchester United shall buy players when we can improve our selection," Van Gaal warned earlier this summer. "And that is a lot more difficult than you think."