Further success followed with Barca, with four Spanish titles and Champions League glory in 2009 and 2011, beating Manchester United in the final on each occasion.
While those honours – along with helping France to the 2006 World Cup final – feature highly among Abidal’s career highlights, he is grateful simply to have had the chance to play professionally both before and after his illness.
"One of the best memories is when you lift a trophy but the best moment is passing from the amateur level to become a professional footballer," he said. "Your dreams are coming true and then you have to work every day to remain a professional player."
He returned for Barca after his health problems and was given the captain’s armband by regular skipper Carles Puyol after the 2011 European final to allow him to lift the trophy.
"It was a very great moment in my career," he said of his return to action.
"In football you have positive moments and negative moments and when a negative moment occurs, you have to be determined.
"I used football to forget my illness and at an emotional level, this moment was even greater than lifting a trophy."