FC Barcelona full-back Éric Abidal has confirmed he will leave the Spanish Liga champions when his contract expires next month.
The announcement brings to an end a fruitful six-season spell for the French international in Catalonia, where he amassed 192 appearances in all competitions and twice won the UEFA Champions League. He intends to continue playing elsewhere.
Speaking at a specially arranged press conference attended by the entire Barcelona first-team squad, an emotional Abidal said: "This is a difficult day for me. I have played here for six years and it has been the biggest experience of my life. I have been lucky to have had marvellous team-mates, the best in the world. I would also like to thank the coaches who trusted in me."
The 33-year-old signed for Barça from Olympique Lyonnias – where he was a three-time Ligue 1 winner – in a €15m transfer in 2007. Besides triumphing in European club football's elite competition on two occasions, he also lifted four Liga championships, two FIFA Club World Cups, two UEFA Super Cups, two Copas del Rey and three Spanish Super Cups with the Blaugrana.
Capped by France 61 times, Abidal attracted international headlines after twice returning from battles with cancer – a condition that required the former AS Monaco FC and LOSC Lille defender to undergo a successful liver transplant in April 2012.
"Thanks to the doctors and physiotherapists who helped me so much in what were very difficult moments," the left-sided player continued. "I had two objectives: to fight for my daughters, to see them grow; and to return playing. I am leaving the club but am sure I will be back one day."
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