Eric Abidal’s tenure at Barcelona has come to an end.
After six seasons at the Camp Nou, the 33 year old was released by the Blaugrana just weeks after making his comeback following a year long absence in which he underwent a liver transplant.
Abidal was hopeful of penning a new deal but Barca had no interest in re-signing the former French international. Barcelona’s president, Sandro Rosell, and the club’s sports director, Andoni Zubizarreta, failed to offer a clear explanation as to why Abidal wasn’t offered a contract extension.
Abidal announced he would leaving in a press conference Thursday where he was visibly moved to the point of tears while speaking in front of a packed media room. Before leaving the press hall he embraced and kissed the cheek of each of his team-mates, coaches and doctors.
So, was refusing to offer Abidal a blemish on Barca’s behalf?
Barcelona is looking to overhaul its aging defense and the truth is, Abidal would likely have been out the door sooner but for his illness. Further, not only did Barca provide the Frenchman with such immense support during his treatment but they also have offered him a spot in their technical staff when he finishes playing. Both moves are testaments to the classy nature of the Catalan club.
The question then becomes: Will Abidal continue to play football?
“Football for me is a passion since I was a child,” Abidal said. “I don’t see myself quitting now. I have made all this effort to come back to play football. My health is better now. When my body tells me to stop I will hang up the boots.”
Unfortunately, Abidal has yet to receive an offer from another club. For now, the Frenchman remains focused on playing his final match in a Barca strip in this Saturday’s contest against Malaga.
Where Abidal play next is anyone’s guess.
A return to AS Monaco (where Abidal played from 2000-02) is a possibility as the French registered Monegasque-based club looks to off-set its foreign imports with some French-born talent. Another possibility within Ligue 1 would be Lyon, where Abidal was born and later made 76 appearances between 2004-07.
Of course, if he wanted to stay in Spain clubs with defensive issues and financial constraints like Rayo Vallecano, Deportivo La Coruna, Levante and Real Betis could all be good fits.
The biggest issue for Abidal, however, will be convincing clubs that he is worth the risk of signing. As an aging player who turns 34 years old in July and who recently underwent liver transplant surgery, he’s a payroll liability. Clubs simply can’t afford to employ a player who is a risk of needing to sit out an entire season. Fortunately, clever contractual maneuvering can overcome most issues.
Here’s to hoping for the best from one of the game’s true gentleman.