“Football for me… is a passion since I was just a child.”
Barcelona defender Éric Abidal said goodbye to Camp Nou on Saturday night at the end of what has been an incredibly emotional six seasons.
Abidal, 34 next month, returned to football after recovering from liver cancer in what he described the “most intense years of his life.”
The French defender who has fought back from a liver tumour and a liver transplant, was presented with a framed Barca shirt that said ‘Merci Abi’ and thrown into the air by his team-mates.
Abidal was a free transfer from Ligue 1 side Lyon in the summer of 2007 and has gone on to make nearly 200 appearances for what have been some of the best club teams in football history.
During his six season stay he won four Primera División titles, two UEFA Champions Leagues, two Copa del Reys, three Supercopa de Espanas and the FIFA Club World Cup twice. In addition he was named in the UEFA Team of the Year in 2007 and was named as the Best Defender in La Liga in 2011.
Although leaving Barca, Abidal speaking in Thursday’s pre-game press conference stated that now his health has improved he wishes to continue playing for another club.
“I don’t see myself quitting now. I have made all this effort to come back to play football. My health is better now. When my body tells me to stop I will hang up the boots.”
Abidal continued to thank his family, teammates and staff at Barcelona that have helped him through his medical issues. He fought to return to action in April after a liver transplant last year which was a piece was donated by his cousin Gerald.
“I have played here for six years, and it’s been the biggest experience of my life. I had two aims: to fight to be able to see my two daughters grow up and to play again. I want to thank all the fans of the club who have supported me and have been looking after me.”
“This team is my second family, we have gone through a lot together and I’ll remember this forever. I’m going, but I’ll be sure to return. I want to thank all the fans of the club who have supported me and have been looking after me.”
The Frenchman added: “I would have liked to keep on playing here, but the club sees it differently and I have to respect that.”
Sandro Rosell, Barcelona’s president said Abidal would always be welcome to join the club’s staff when he finishes his playing career.
Sporting director at the club Andoni Zubizarreta said that Abidal’s recovery following the transplant of a piece of his cousin’s liver had exceeded expectations. Neither Zubizarreta or Rosell gave an explanation why Abidal had not been offered a chance to extend his deal at the Nou Camp, but with Barcelona’s back line aging, it seems the club may be looking to renovate its defense.
On Saturday, Abidal, wearing his famous number 22 shirt, made an substitute appearance on 75 minutes in Barcelona’s 4-1 win over Malaga, to a standing ovation from the Camp Nou faithful. Additionally, he was furthermore clapped onto the pitch by all his team-mates and Malaga’s eleven.
Every fan in the stadium stayed behind after the final whistle to say their goodbyes to Abidal, in an touching moment.
Abidal made his recovery to the game which with is an achievement we can all look up to him for. He will continue his career with another club, which will surely be another huge chapter in this grand story.
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