BARCELONA, Spain, May 30 – A tearful Eric Abidal called an end to his six-year Barcelona playing career on Thursday, less than two months after returning to action from a liver transplant.
“I am going, but I am sure I will be back” in another capacity, the French defender told a news conference at the club, which said it had offered him a role running the club’s training schools.
“I would have liked to continue playing for Barca, but the club sees things differently and I have to respect that, Abidal said, choking back tears.
Abidal, 33, returned to first-team action last month after making a remarkable recovery from last year’s liver transplant, prompted by cancer.
He received a rousing ovation from fans in the Camp Nou as he joined the match against Mallorca on April 6 — 14 months after going under the knife.
He is out of contract at the end of the season but had said he hoped to continue playing for another couple of years.
“I had two aims — firstly to fight for the sake of my daughters and see them grow up, and secondly to start playing again,” he said of his recovery.
Abidal “has become a very special person for all of us”, said the club’s president Sandro Rosell, sitting alongside the player as Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and other stars of the Barcelona squad looked on.
“He is an example of how to overcome difficulties. He will go down in our history for the way he managed to come back as a player,” Rosell said.
He added that Abidal was welcome to return to Barca “whenever he wants to come back”, even if he left first to play for another side.
“We are not saying goodbye,” Rosell said.
“When he stops being a player, the doors are open for him to be a technical director of our schools at international level.”