Barcelona's Eric Abidal followed liver transplant protocol - study

Spain's National Organ Transplant Organisation (ONT) said the liver transplant for Barcelona sporting director Eric Abidal was completely lawful following a report the organ was illegally purchased.

El Confidencial reported earlier this month that former Barcelona president Sandro Rosell trafficked a liver for Abidal, who was diagnosed with cancer when he played for the club in 2012.

Barca, Abidal and Rosell denied the story, and the ONT did so as well on Tuesday, releasing a statement outlining its review of how the transplant complied with international legislation.

"Abidal was on the waiting list for a deceased donor transplant, but as his illness advanced, medical experts began to seek a live donor, which in no case excluded the possibility of a deceased donor if the opportunity presented itself," the ONT said. "The relationship between the donor [Abidal's cousin, Gerard] and the recipient was clear from the start and the necessary documentation was produced [to prove the relationship]."

The ONT also verified, with help from the clinic where the transplant took place and the Catalan Organisation of Transplants, that every step "was carried out in accordance with current legislation and good practice."

Claims that the organ was obtained improperly surfaced after police overheard several phone calls by Rosell in which he "implicitly admitted illegally buying a liver" for Abidal, according to court documents.

Rosell, 53, is being held in prison as part of a money-laundering investigation in which he has been accused of moving €15 million in Andorra for audiovisual rights to Brazil matches in 2006, before he took over at Barca.

In an interview with El Mundo published on Tuesday, Rosell said he finds the case hard to believe as he thinks he has been persecuted because he held a high-profile role with Barca.

"I'm not in prison because I was Barcelona president, but if I hadn't been, I would not be here," Rosell said. "In what other case have the tax office dedicated themselves to investigating something that took place 12 years ago in another country, without there having been a crime and in which the implicated parties have not claimed anything? It's surreal."

Rosell referred to Ricardo Teixeira, the former president of the Brazilian Football Federation who also negotiated the deal and who has not been accused of any crime, as a sign of his innocence.

Denied bail last year because he was deemed a flight risk, Rosell countered the suggestion he could go into hiding given the chance.

"Not only am I not going to run, but my intention is to tackle this process face on to be able to definitively prove my innocence," Rosell said. "Of course I am not going to run away! I have old parents, my wife and my two daughters, my brothers, in-laws, nieces and nephews. ... I have everything in Barcelona. My whole life is in the city."