Éric Abidal plays first competitive match since liver transplant | inside World Soccer

Barcelona defender Éric Abidal made his return to competitive play on Saturday after enduring 14 months on the sidelines following a liver transplant surgery.

Éric Abidal appears for Barcelona since last featuring for them in February 2012
Éric Abidal appears for Barcelona since last featuring for them in February 2012

Photo: Getty Images

Cesc Fàbregas commanded the spotlight in the injury-enforced absence of Lionel Messi, scoring three and setting up two for Alexis Sánchez as Barça romped to a 5-0 victory over Real Mallorca.

However, it was the appearance of Abidal on the touchline and subsequent foray onto the field that prompted the biggest roar around the Camp Nou.

Abidal brought the Catalans to their feet with the 33-year-old Frenchman given a standing ovation when he replaced Gerard Piqué in the 70th minute.

After the final whistle, Abidal revealed a message to his cousin, who donated part of his liver for the operation, and made it clear how thankful he is.

"This is special for me after a year out," Abidal told Canal+. "Thanks to my cousin and all the people I met in the hospital. They were all important.

"I can fight, I will always fight - and I'll try to do my best. Let's hope it's a great year. Without my cousin I wouldn't be here.

"My advice to people with in the same situation is to fight hard, to be grateful to God and to pray a lot."

Abidal's return for Barcelona after 402 days out marked the first time he has appeared for the Blaugrana since last featuring for them in February 2012, after which he was forced into a hiatus owing to the operation conducted in April.

"It was incredible," said Fabregas. "We saw how nervous he was on the bench. At first he couldn't even find his warm-up bib.

"It's impossible to put yourself in another person's skin, but we know how much he fought to get here."


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