Back in March, Éric Abidal was enjoying one of the most successful seasons of his career. With the French international full-back firmly on course for a third straight Spanish Liga championship and through to the last eight of the UEFA Champions League, life was looking decidedly rosy. But then came the sobering news he had a tumour in his liver.
Fortunately a succcessful operation followed, as did a two-minute cameo in the UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg against Real Madrid CF. Despite that swift recovery, the events of the last few weeks mean the 31-year-old, who missed Barcelona's last UEFA Champions League final in Rome through suspension, is taking nothing – not least a starting berth at Wembley on 28 May – for granted.
UEFA.com: What was your reaction when you found out about the tumour?
Éric Abidal: It changed me a bit.
You always imagine the worst as you're not expecting that sort of news. You start to think, 'If I'm not around what will happen tomorrow? How will my family survive?' We tried to settle things, even things we had already settled, but I try not to think too far ahead. It's like my holidays, I never plan them. I plan today for the next day.
UEFA.com: Will you be available for the final?
Abidal: I will try to recover. I am very happy to be back in the squad. I need to take it step by step after the big surgery I went through. So far my body is responding very well, but I shouldn't rush it. So far I have felt really good but if I don't play the next game it's not a problem. I have a fantastic job and the most important thing is to have good health.
UEFA.com: You have often said Barcelona are the club where you always wanted to play.
Abidal: When I was young my idol was [Diego] Maradona and he played for Barcelona. At that age I was a forward, I wanted to score goals and produce nice skills. Barcelona was a childhood dream for me. I had to work very hard and make a lot of sacrifices but today I am very happy to be living my dream.
UEFA.com: Lionel Messi is another extraordinary talent – how do you defend against him?
Abidal: It's our little secret. If I answer that question, it will give it away to every other team. The problem with Leo is that no one knows what he will do. He is from another planet. He can do anything, he's proved that despite his age. He still has many more years to come, and I hope he wins the Ballon d'Or more than anyone else as he is so talented. We saw it against Real Madrid in the Champions League – at 1-0 he dribbled past four players to score. It's incredible.
UEFA.com: You didn't play against Manchester United FC in the 2009 final but what are your memories from Rome?
Abidal: That game was massive. We wanted to deliver a big performance and we did. That's why we always come back to the motto, 'More than a club'. Whether it's the fans, the boys on the bench, the players in the stands or the ones on the pitch, we were strong mentally and convinced we could achieve something. The players who were there and who played that day were fantastic.
UEFA.com:Wembley is a legendary venue and the press are all talking about the 1992 final, aren't they?
Abidal: That was Barcelona's first European Cup.
It would be great to win at Wembley again and close the circle. I've had the opportunity to play there with France and it's an incredible stadium.
UEFA.com: Will France be cheering for Abidal or for Manchester United where Eric Cantona played?
Abidal: Patrice Evra plays there too, don't forget. I think it will be 50-50, as many Frenchmen have played for Barcelona and the same goes for Manchester United. Let's hope the best team wins, and that it will be us.
©UEFA.com 1998-2013. All rights reserved.