Barcelona's Abidal makes first start since liver transplant
BARCELONA, Spain -- Eric Abidal made his first start since undergoing a liver transplant, playing the full 90-plus minutes to help Barcelona defeat Levante 1-0 in the Spanish league on Saturday.
It was the 33-year-old defender's first start since playing for France in a friendly against Germany on Feb. 29, 2012. His last start for Barcelona had come three days earlier.
"Nobody can deny that Abidal's case is exceptional,'' said Barcelona assistant Jordi Roura. "It's fantastic that he has played 90 minutes.''
Abidal anchored the center of Barcelona's defense and didn't show any signs of rust, intercepting various passes and even coolly dribbling inside his own area after recovering the ball and under pressure.
Abidal played two matches as a substitute for Barcelona after he recovered from a liver transplant received last year. That came after Abidal already came back from the removal of a liver tumor in March 2011.
He could see more starts with centerbacks Carles Puyol and Javier Mascherano both out injured, and Roura said Abidal's strong performance even put him in consideration for Tuesday's Champions League semifinal first leg at Bayern Munich.
"(Abidal) demonstrated tonight that he is one more option that we will evaluate over the coming days to see if we use him or not,'' Roura said.
Abidal's contract runs out this June. He has said he would like to keep playing one or two more seasons.
Barcelona also said on Saturday that midfielder Sergio Busquets and backup goalkeeper Jose Pinto were cleared by doctors to play after recovering from injury.
Barcelona leads the Spanish league by 13 points with six rounds to play.