• Primera Liga

Abidal nears Barca return

ESPN staff
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Eric Abidal returned to Barcelona training last year in December © PA Photos
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Barcelona defender Eric Abidal has made his first appearance for the club in 11 months, playing 65 minutes for the B team in a friendly against French second-tier side Istres on Tuesday.

Abidal had a liver transplant operation in April 2012, having previously undergone treatment for a tumour that was first discovered in early 2011.

The Frenchman, 33, returned to training with his team-mates in December 2012 after completing a special individual training programme in the Catalan mountains at Vall d'Aran, and was given the all-clear to play in February.

His involvement in Tuesday morning's friendly, which was played at Barcelona's Ciutat Esportiva training facility, marks the latest step in his recovery to full match fitness.

Nobody at the club has been in a hurry to rush things, as outlined by club doctor Ricard Pruna last Saturday.

"The medical all-clear was an important stop because it was an agreement between the doctors who carried out the liver transplant, those of the club and the people he has at his side," Pruna said. "To give an all-clear after an illness like that is not easy.

"That told the coaches they could start to give him training tasks with the same intensity as the rest of the group. Bit by bit, the player is reaching the level of his team-mates."

Pruna did not wish to put a date on a potential first-team return but indicated that it is likely to happen in the near future.

"You cannot say exactly when he will reappear, but he is in good spirits because he sees he has not long to go," he said. "I believe it will not be long before he is included in a match squad. It depends on the coaches, but we are close."

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