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Barcelona not to renew Eric Abidal's contract

Barcelona not to renew Eric Abidal's contract

"I would have liked to stay and played on at Barcelona, but the club saw it differently," said the French defender.

Madrid: Eric Abidal will be leaving Barcelona after six trophy-laden seasons and having fought back from both a liver tumor and a liver transplant to play again. Abidal, who will turn 34 in July, said Thursday he would have liked to continue playing for the Spanish club.

"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. I would have liked to keep on playing here, but the club sees it differently and I have to respect that."

Barcelona president Sandro Rosell said the door is open for Abidal to return and join its technical staff when he finishes his playing career. Abidal thanked his team-mates, his coaches, and above all the team doctors and physical therapists that helped him through his medical issues.

Even though he was obviously disappointed that Barcelona had not offered to extend his contract, Abidal said that he had spent the "most intense years of his life" at the club. "I am going but I am sure that I will be back," he said. "I have a very interesting offer from the club that I will have to think about."

Abidal, who was visibly moved by the moment, spoke in front of a packed media room. He showed some tears during a tribute video the club dedicated to him after he said he wouldn't be playing again for the team. He then embraced and kissed the cheek of each of his team-mates, coaches and doctors before leaving the press hall.

Abidal said he wants to keep playing as long as his health allows, but that he had not received any offers from other clubs yet and that he would wait until he finishes his contract until sounding out his next move.

Neither Rosell nor sports director Andoni Zubizarreta offered a clear explanation on why Abidal had not been offered a contract extension. But with Barcelona's back line aging, it appears the club may be looking to overhaul its defense this offseason.

"Eric has been with us for six years, and it goes without saying that he has become a very important person for us," Rosell said. "He has won our hearts. He showed us the will to overcome any type in difficulty.

"Today we are not here to say goodbye, or until later, but rather until he wants to return. The door is open for when he wants to become technical director of all our football academies. We will wait for him. When he returns, if he wants to help us in another way, they we will consider that also."

Abidal battled back to play for Barcelona in April after having a liver transplant last year following a bout with cancer in 2011. The former France defender formed a key part in Barcelona's most successful run in club history, winning 15 titles in his six seasons at Camp Nou.

Besides two Champions League and four Spanish league titles, Abidal also helped the Catalan club win two Copa del Rey titles, two Club World Cups, two European Super Cups, and three Spanish Super Cups.

Abidal's last game will be on Saturday when Barcelona concludes the league against Malaga with the chance to equal a record of 100 points with a victory. "The most important thing right now is my last game," Abidal said. "Let's see if my coach plays me and I can have some minutes."

first published:May 30, 2013, 17:15 IST