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1:00 AM UTC Feb 24, 2017
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Abidal: I never stopped fighting

Barcelona defender Eric Abidal insists he never gave up his fight to continue his football career after making his long awaited return in Barcelona's 5-0 win over Mallorca on Saturday.

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Abidal, 33, was sidelined after undergoing a liver transplant almost a year ago, completing a two year ordeal with illness following the removal of a liver tumour in March 2011.

The France international was substituted on in the 70th minute of Barca's rout to a rousing reception from the Camp Nou crowd, his first appearance for the Blaugrana since February 2012.

Abidal took a significant step in his comeback last month when he featured for Barcelona's reserve team and coach Tito Vilanova - who also returned to the Camp Nou sidelines from illness - had no hesitations in promoting him to the first team for the La Liga clash.

After the match, Abidal revealed a t-shirt that read "thanks my cousin. Number 13" - a tribute to the cousin who donated part of his liver to the Frenchman.

"This is special for me after a year out. Thanks to my cousin and all the people I met in the hospital. They were all important," Abidal told Canal Plus television. "I can fight, I will always fight - and I'll try to do my best. Let's hope it's a great year. Without my cousin I wouldn't be here.

"My advice to people in the same situation is to fight hard, to be grateful to God and to pray a lot."

Abidal admits he was motivated to return in a bid to finish his career on his own terms.

"I feel great. Apart from my family, football is my life. I didn't want to retire without having played again," he told Barca TV. "If I can, I will continue playing for one or two more years. If not, you can hire me here at Barca TV."

Assistant coach Jordi Roura admitted Abidal's return was a motivator for Barca and praised the depth of the Catalan giants in the absence of Lionel Messi.

"Abidal's return is an important moment for the whole squad," Roura said. "If Messi's not there, of course it's a problem, but we've shown again we have the necessary squad depth and quality players.

"Cesc played a great game, and he's played before in that position. [Alex] Song was outstanding, while [Alexis] Sanchez also scored twice. He only left the pitch as a precaution."


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