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FC Barcelona: The Rise and Rise of Eric Abidal

Abidal lifts the Champions League trophy, just 2 months after surgery to remove a liver tumour.
Abidal lifts the Champions League trophy, just 2 months after surgery to remove a liver tumour.

The image that will last forever and a lifetime, the image synonymous with Barcelona’s triumph in the UEFA Champions League final in 2011. A returning Eric Abidal lifting the trophy after winning his battle against cancer.

It was a joy to behold, and you know what? Back in March, I would have swapped both the Champions League and the Spanish League if it could have ensured the swift return of Abidal. So, as King Eric lifted that trophy, I couldn’t help but feel proud to be a Culé.

Our team had won the Champions League, and in what must be the most heart-warming gesture I have ever seen, Carles Puyol gave Abidal the captain’s armband, and allowed him to be the first to lift the trophy.


Abidal was in the middle of his best ever season for the Blaugrana, filling in seamlessly as center-half in the absence of Carles Puyol, and his imperious showings got better and better with every match. In fact, he even scored! And what a goal it was, to send us through in the Copa at the expense of Athletic Bilbao.

Abidal goal vs Bilbao at 75' min after Messi pass 5/1/2011 (via footballfantomas)

Though, as happens in life, tragedy struck.

The whole ordeal started back in March, when Abidal was diagnosed. As I said, I wanted to trade it all, just for the speedy recovery of our player. At the time, the club respected Abidal’s wishes, and we fans were left in the dark. Everyone knew that Abidal was ill, with a tumour on his liver, but that was it.

As it was announced that surgery had been moved forward, I felt even worse. This was surely a bad sign? Culés all over the world feared the worst: Would he return to football? Would he survive even? Questions that make you shudder...questions that should never cross one’s mind.

News broke out that surgery was a success, and the football world breathed a collective sigh of relief. Now Abidal’s health was no longer in doubt, Barca fans began to wonder when the Frenchman would be back in action. The most widely accepted belief at the time, was that Abidal was fine, would return to football, but not until the new season.

I didn’t care when, the important thing was that he was returning.

So, when I saw on my Twitter feed that Abidal was making an effort to return before the new season, I dismissed the thought.

"Abidal back before the new season? No chance."

Then came "the day."

The 3rd of May, 2011. Guardiola had announced the match squads for the second leg of the Champions League encounter with Real Madrid. Eric Abidal was in! Would he play? Once again, my eternally pessimistic views tried to ruin it. He wasn’t going to play, surely not?

The game was coming to an end, I looked to be right, Abidal didn’t appear to be coming on. But as most Barca fans have learned during the reign of Pep Guardiola:

Keep the faith.

Stoppage time was upon us, and there was movement on the was Abidal!

Who was going to come off? It was Carles Puyol, the man who Abidal deputised for before being taken ill. With hindsight, it wouldn’t surprise me if it was Captain Caveman’s wishes to be substituted for the returning Eric.

Abidal is back ! | F.C. Barcelona (via Jonosabri)

It was a moment that sent shivers down my spine, gave me goosebumps, all the clichés usually used in those situations were actually happening. As I watched in my living room, I couldn’t help but applaud Guardiola, and of course Abidal.

Back ahead of schedule? Yes. Back for the final? It remained to be seen.

In a bid to prove his fitness, Abidal was started in all three games previous to the Wembley showpiece, but still the media thought that he was only ready for a place on the bench.

Keep the faith.

Abidal was a starter on Saturday night, and turned in a majestic performance. Antonio Valencia was dominated, and had arguably his worst appearance in a Manchester United shirt.

Though once you have beaten cancer, I imagine football is a stroll in the park.

Could anyone be surprised? It was just the continuing rise of a certain Frenchman.


Inspiration. Hero. Legend.

Eric Abidal.

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