Barcelona defender Eric Abidal has been cleared to return to first-team action, 10 months after undergoing a liver transplant, his club said on Thursday.
"After training this morning Eric Abidal has received the good news that he has now been given the all-clear and will therefore be available for the team to take part for the rest of the season," said a statement on the club's website.
Abidal first had a tumour removed from his liver in March 2011 but returned to playing less than two months later and lifted the Champions League trophy as Barca won the competition for a fourth time in May of that year.
The Frenchman has though not played for Barca since February last year, two months before he had the full transplant. However, the club insist he is prepared for a return to competitive action after a gruelling recuperation process.
"Abidal has followed a long recuperation process. At the beginning of October the number 22, accompanied by club physio Emili Ricart, spent a number of days in Vall d'Aran where he followed a specific training plan," the statement continued.
"Two months later, on December 19, the player began to work with the group."
Midfielder Xavi said he was delighted to see Abidal back and highlighted him as an example to the rest of his teammates.
"The return of Abidal is the best news of the day and of the year. Watching him train is an example in sport and in life," he said.
And Barca captain Carles Puyol also welcomed the 33-year-old's return, describing it as the perfect lift after a disappointing 2-0 defeat to AC Milan in the Champions League on Wednesday night.
"After the blow of yesterday, today there is great news for all Barca fans and for football as Abidal gets the all-clear. We are all with you and be strong," he said on his Twitter account.
Organ transplant specialists have doubted whether the former Lyon man would be able to make a return to top-flight football, given the potential risk of damage to the new organ in a physical sport like football.
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