Abidal seeking new challenge
Eric Abidal is seeking a new club after being released by Barcelona but the Frenchman has already been offered an opportunity to return to the Nou Camp.
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Abidal will, at least temporarily, end his six-year association with the club, who decided against offering a new playing contract to the veteran defender just weeks after he made his comeback following a liver transplant.
The former France full-back returned from a year on the sidelines last month and played a cameo role as Barcelona claimed the Primera Division title.
Rather than announce his retirement on a high note and move into a non-playing role with the Spanish giants - Barcelona today proposed a technical director role overlooking their international academies - the 33-year-old is convinced he has plenty to offer another team.
"I'd have loved to have stayed here but I have to accept the club's decision (of not offering me a new a contract)," Abidal said at a press conference on Thursday.
"My idea is to keep playing and I have not changed my mind, health permitting."
The Catalan club offered every support to Abidal during his recovery from the transplant last April, having previously had surgery to remove a tumour in March 2011.
That has not been lost on Abidal, who added: "It's a very difficult day for me.
"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.
"The 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."
Abidal joined Barcelona in the summer of 2007 as a replacement for Dutch left-back Giovanni van Bronckhorst, having helped Lyon win three consecutive Ligue 1 titles.
His career at the Nou Camp has been one where he has had regular trophy success, including four domestic league successes, three Copa del Rey triumphs and two Champions League winners' medals.
Health problems have seen him play an increasingly limited role in the last two years, although a show of resilience in spite of his setbacks has won the hearts of football fans all over the world.
Barcelona sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta said: "We have laughed, cried, suffered and enjoyed things together. I'll never forget the day I visited him in the clinic and he said, 'I'll be back'."
While Barcelona were unable to give him a new deal, club president Sandro Rosell is confident Abidal will return to the club for an important role.
"We are not saying goodbye to him, we are saying that we'll meet again whenever he wants. When he decides to stop playing football, he can come back here to be the technical director of all of our football academies on a worldwide level," Rosell said.
"Abidal has become a very special person for all of us. He has won our hearts. He has taught us never to give up and how determination can overcome difficulties. It is a lesson for life that we'll never forget."