Abidal announces Barcelona departure

Eric Abidal called time on his six-year Barcelona playing career on Thursday, less than two months after returning to action from a liver transplant.

The defender made a remarkable recovery from a liver transplant last year to return to first-team action before the close of the 2012-13 season. Abidal's contract with the Catalan club expires at the end of the campaign, leaving the 33-year-old to explore options away from Camp Nou.

"I would have liked to continue playing for Barca, but the clubs sees things differently and I have to respect that," Abidal said in a news conference.

Abidal has claimed a wealth of silverware during his time with the Spanish giants. Not only has he helped Barcelona to two Champions League titles, but he has supplemented his resume with four La Liga titles, two Copa del Rey titles, two FIFA Club World Cups, two European Super Cups and three Spanish Super Cups.

"It's a very difficult day for me," the Frenchman added via Barcelona's official Twitter account. "I have played for Barca for six years and it's been the biggest experience of my life.

"I understand and respect the decision of the club. I'm going, but I'll be sure to return. I want to thank all the fans of the club who have supported me and have been looking after me. The team is my second family. We have gone through a lot together and I'll remember this forever."

The door has been left open by Barcelona president Sandro Rosell for Abidal to return to Camp Nou in a technical capacity in the future.

"We are not saying goodbye," Rosell said. "When he stops being a player, the doors are open for him to be a technical director of our schools at (the) international level."