Eric Abidal says Barcelona will always have a special place in his heart after playing his final game for the club in a 4-1 win over Malaga on Saturday.
The 33-year-old took to the pitch for a short cameo in place of Gerard Pique for what would be his final appearance, after confirming earlier this week that he would be leaving the club when his contract expires this summer.
After taking a lap around the stadium to salute the supporters after the final whistle, the France international underlined how their faith was instrumental in recovering from his liver transplant.
"I want to thank all of you for the support all those years. They have been six incredible years, and many thanks to the Catalan people," Abidal affirmed to reporters after the match. "I will always carry you in my heart. Now I want to invite my cousin, Gerard, to receive your applause, he deserves it more than I do."
Blaugrana coach Tito Vilanova also revealed the dilemma the club was faced with not to renew Abidal's contract, but that the decision had been taken in good faith.
"The only thing I can say is that it was a tough one. It hurt us to take it. We won't find a player like him so easily," the Spaniard confirmed earlier on Saturday.
"We talked about it many times and in the end we came to the conclusion that we came to. I really hope that he can go to another club and show that he can still play at a high level. We hold him in high esteem."
Abidal joined the Liga champion in 2007 and leaves with two Champions League winners medals and four Liga titles to his name.
- Sports & Recreation
- Gerard Pique