Returning Abidal wishes Vilanova well
Barcelona defender Eric Abidal has returned to full training after spending nine months on the sidelines, during which time he had a liver transplant.
The positive news of the French international's return on Wednesday was quickly overshadowed by the day's announcement of Tito Vilanova's illness.
Abidal, who last played for Barcelona on February 26, was training again with his colleagues on Thursday morning, and posted a message of support for Vilanova on his personal Facebook page.
"I confirm you that I have started again the collective training with the group," Abidal's message read. "I hope to come back soon on the fields, but I can't stop thinking of our coach, Tito Vilanova: I wish him and his family, a lot of courage!"
Barca sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta said on Wednesday that Abidal had been particularly affected when Vilanova had discussed his most recent illness with the squad that afternoon.
"Abidal was emotional," Zubizarreta said. "There was an exchange of glances between him and Tito in the dressing room that was very special."
Abidal, 33, first had liver surgery in March 2011, recovering remarkably quickly to play in his side's Champions League final win over Manchester United that May and lift the trophy along with club captain Carles Puyol afterwards. It is not yet known when he will make his return to first team action this time around.
The former Lyon player's current contract runs until June 2013. The Catalan club's spokesperson Toni Freixa said on Tuesday that Barca would support him in whatever he wishes to do.
"The club wants what Abidal wants," Freixa said. "He has made an extraordinary effort, and he is happy to have done so because he can live a satisfactory life again. Whether he stays will depend on what he himself decides, and Barca will always be there at his side".