Thomas Vermaelen insists he does not regret leaving Arsenal to join Barcelona but admits he still watches out for the north Londoners.
Belgium defender Vermaelen made over 100 appearances for Arsenal after moving to the Emirates in a €10million deal from Ajax in 2009.
In 2012 he was named captain by Arsene Wenger, but fell behind Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker in the pecking order and was eventually sold to Barcelona in 2014.
The 30-year-old has found game time hard to come by at the Nou Camp, playing just seven times after a series of injuries, meaning he is unlikely to face his former side in the Champions League on Tuesday.
“Of course I don’t play every game, I’m not Messi.” he told the Sunday Telegraph.
“It’s not easy to play here, there is a lot of competition, we have a lot of great players, especially at centre-back, but you can’t expect it to be easy if you play for a club like this.
“It’s a challenge but I’m very happy to be here, to train with the best, to get better with the best and try to get as many games as I can.”
When asked whether he considered joining a club where he was guaranteed first-team football, Vermaelen replied: “Yeah, but what can you do, give up the opportunity to play for Barcelona? I knew when I cam here it wouldn’t be easy, I knew it was going to be a challenge.
“It meant moving, another culture, another language, so you always have to adapt. But sometimes you have to go for it. If you’re playing against Messi or Neymar or Suarez in training you learn a lot – you can only improve.”
However, Vermaelen admits he still has a soft sport for the Gunners, and hopes they can build on the victory against Leicester City to finally end their title drought.
“I watch a lot of Arsenal games because I have warm memories of the attractive team,” he added.
“I watched the Leicester game last week. It was very stressful but these are the most beautiful games to win. Now the title race is wide open, if they hadn’t won it would have been more difficult but now it’s on. I always said at the start that Arsenal had a big chance to win it.
“Unfortunately we had to go our separate ways but luckily I signed for a beautiful club like Barcelona.”