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Abidal ‘improving’ after liver transplant

BARCELONA, Spain, April 11 – Barcelona’s French defender Eric Abidal is “improving” in hospital, the club’s president Sandro Rosell said Wednesday, a day after the player underwent a liver transplant operation.

“Both Abidal and his cousin are improving although I can’t give more information at the request of the family,” he told reporters.

The 32-year-old player received part of his cousin Gerard’s liver at a Barcelona hospital in a lengthy procedure reportedly lasting nine hours on Tuesday.

The surgery started at about 3:00pm local time (1300 GMT) and finished at midnight (2200 GMT), the Catalan daily Mundo Deportivo said. He was then taken to a specialist unit for post-operative care, it added.

Barcelona’s deputy financial director Javier Faus said the length of the surgery was because the player was receiving a partial organ transplant from a living donor.

“It is a long operation during which you have to first operate on the person who is donating the organ, then move on to the person who is receiving it,” he said.

Barcelona announced on March 15 that Abidal needed a liver transplant “in the coming weeks”, nearly a year after he had a tumour removed from the same organ.

Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets said at a post-training press conference on Wednesday that all Abidal’s colleagues wished him well.

“I want to send him all my support and strength. I am sure he has received the signs of support that have been sent out in recent days from the squad, from fans and from people in general,” he added.

Abidal received a moving tribute from the fans at Barca’s 4-0 victory over Getafe on Tuesday when, in the 22nd minute — the same number as his squad shirt, they held up signs that read “Courage Abidal, see you in Munich”.

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The German city will host the final of the Champions League on May 17. Barcelona are in the semi-finals of the competition and face English Premier League side Chelsea next week.

The club did not give any indication of how long he would be out of action but experts say recovery from a transplant may take up to six months and there was always the risk that the body could reject the new organ.

Abidal had been a candidate for France’s Euro 2012 squad for the tournament on June 8-July 1 but it is unlikely he will travel to Poland and Ukraine.

Club officials have expressed hopes that he will eventually return to action but Spanish transplant experts have voiced doubts that he can play top-flight football again, given the risk of complications if he picked up a knock in his abdomen.

Abidal recovered rapidly from surgery to remove a tumour from his liver in March 2011 and drew loud cheers by making a symbolic return in the final minutes of Barca’s Champions League semi-final second-leg tie with Real Madrid on May 3 last year.

He has been a regular this season for the Catalan side, starting in 20 first division matches.

But he has not played since picking up a hip injury playing for France in their friendly win over Germany at the start of March.

His contract had been due to expire at the end of the current season but in January he agreed a new one-year deal with Barcelona which ties him to the club until 2013 with options to extend it by two more years.

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