Barcelona player Abidal to have liver transplant


BARCELONA, Spain (AP) -- Barcelona defender Eric Abidal will undergo a liver transplant in the coming weeks, the club said Thursday.

"The transplant is an option that has been considered since the beginning of his treatment, one year ago," the European champions said on their Twitter feed.

The 32-year-old France international had a tumor removed from his liver on March 17, 2011, but returned to play the end of the season and showed few lingering effects since then. In a tribute, he was chosen to lift the club's fourth European Cup at Wembley Stadium after helping Barcelona beat Manchester United 3-1 in the Champions League final last May.

"This is hard to take," Barcelona captain Carles Puyol said. "But he's in good spirits."

Puyol said the squad found out about Abidal's latest health scare just moments before starting Thursday's training.

"It was the worst surprise you could expect to hear. We spoke to him after that, and obviously what was said will remain between us," Puyol said. "But when you see him, he is the one trying to motivate us. He's very strong, as he showed last season, and he'll show it once again. I'm sure he'll beat this."

The announcement has put Abidal's chances of playing at the European Championship in doubt.

"On the one hand there are some things that are much more important in life than football. We should think about him and his health," France defender Philippe Mexes told RMC radio. "I hope with all my heart that everything goes well for him and that he can be with us at the Euro. He has experience, amazing qualities.

"We hadn't spoken about it (his illness) much," Mexes added. "Maybe he was afraid of worrying us, but I'm staggered (by the news)."

Abidal has been a regular with Barcelona since joining the team from Lyon in 2007. The club said the player had requested his right to privacy and confidentiality be respected.

Abidal, who injured his groin while playing a midweek friendly for France two weeks ago, was one of the players Barcelona hoped to have back from injury for its league match against Sevilla this weekend. It was not immediately clear if the player would now be sidelined.