Eric Abidal hopes to be back by December

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It’s too early to know whether he’ll be able to meet his goals, but four months after undergoing a liver transplant, Barcelona defender Eric Abidal has set a timetable for a possible return. The 32-year-old France international hopes to be “back playing before December.”

Abidal recently joined Barcelona in Paris for the Spanish Cup champions’ friendly with Paris Saint-Germain. He’s begun working out, he said, happy with the progress he’s made since April 10’s operation.

“I have started working in the gym and I feel good,” he said after Barcelona’s friendly against Paris Saint-Germain in Paris, which the Catalan club won 4-1 on penalties after a 2-2 draw. I am on the way and let’s see if I can get back playing before December.

“That is the objective, but if I have to wait until after that it’s not a problem. I am better than I was three months ago. I am following the doctors’ guidelines and the truth is I feel good. I am able to travel and enjoy the football and being with the team.”

Two examples of similar comebacks come to mind from U.S. sport. Both former San Antonio Spur Sean Elliott and former Miami Heat Alonzo Mourning suffered from focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, a form of urologic disease that can cause kidney failure. Both Elliott and Mourning had to undergo kidney transplants during their careers yet returned to the National Basketball Association.

Like Elliott and Mourning, Abidal is going through this in his early 30s, which means (like Elliott and Mourning) he likely only has a few seasons left in his career. Thirty-two, however, is too soon to be saying goodbye to any professional athlete, let along one of the world’s best left backs.