Former Barcelona, France defender Abidal announces retirement

Former Barcelona defender Eric Abidal underwent a liver transplant in 2012.

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Former France and Barcelona defender Eric Abidal has officially announced his retirement from football.

The 35-year-old, who underwent a liver transplant in 2012, has been playing this season with Greek side Olympiacos, but Saturday’s game against Kalloni AEL will be his last as a professional player.

Abidal revealed he has had offers of non-playing roles with Olympiacos and Barca, the club he was playing for when he suffered a liver tumor in 2011 which affected the latter part of his career.

Abidal said at a press conference televised on Olympiacos’ website: "I depart for personal reasons, as I have said. Only a professional player knows when and how he has to retire.

"I have had a lot of very happy moments in my career.

"Two months ago I talked with the president and told him, ‘In December I will leave because the time has come’.

"I will relax with my family and my friends. I have two offers, from Olympiacos and Barcelona, and I will think about these and take my decision."

Abidal began his top-level career in 2000 when he signed for Monaco from French lower-league side OL Duchere.

He then joined Lille before moving in 2004 to his hometown club Lyon, helping them win three Ligue 1 titles in succession as well as reaching the 2007 Coupe de la Ligue final.

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."

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Abidal won 67 caps for his country and said: "I will always remember my first cap.

"The first competition I participated in, in 2006, was a great one with unforgettable moments.

"If you decide to be a professional football player, it is in order to live moments like this. We didn’t win but I learnt many things from this competition."

Abidal’s retirement comes in the same week as that of former Barca and France team-mate Thierry Henry, though the former insists the timing is mere coincidence.

"Thierry Henry is a great player and I have not achieved even half of what he did in his career," he said.

"He’s a great player, he decided personally to retire now and it’s a pure coincidence we decided in the same moment."