Eric Abidal, the Monaco full-back, has said that his old Barcelona teammate Dani Alves offered to donate the Frenchman his liver when Abidal needed a transplant 18 months ago.
Abidal was first diagnosed with a tumour on his liver in March 2011 and after briefly returning to the first team, was ruled out of the game for over a year to have the transplant in March 2012.
As a tribute to Abidal, who was surprisingly not offered a new contract by Barca at the end of last season, Alves has changed his squad number from two to Abidal’s old No 22 this season.
Abidal, 34, said their friendship went much deeper than public displays of support.
“My relationship with Dani goes much further than him taking my old No 22 shirt,” he told Catalunya radio. “When I had to undergo surgery, he wanted to donate his liver. Logically, he couldn’t because he is a professional footballer. Our relationship goes much deeper than friendship.”
In another recent interview Abidal caused controversy by saying that Barca hadn’t paid him while he had been ill.
Those allegations were denied by the club who said they had fulfilled all their contractual obligations to the player.
Abidal admitted there had been a misunderstanding and that he would most likely return to the club to work with their football development team once he has finished playing.
In the period when Abidal needed the transplant and then during his recovery period, his playing contract was suspended by mutual consent, although he did continue to receive monthly payments from the club.
His playing contract was then reactivated when he returned to training with the first team.
“I don’t have any problems with Barcelona,” Abidal said. “It was all signed, what they said was true and what I said was true.
“Everything is good. I will return to Barcelona with the joy that I have always had there.
“I have an agreement with Barca for when I finish playing to be the director of their football schools worldwide and I will almost certainly accept that proposition.”
* Agence France-Presse