Ànims Abidal! Éric Abidal and the Future of FC Barcelona's Back Line
I was saddened to hear the news that FC Barcelona LB Éric Abidal will have a liver transplant in the next couple of weeks. As you know, Abidal underwent surgery last March to remove a tumor from his liver. Abidal returned to play in the final minutes of the second leg of the 2011 UEFA Champions League semifinals versus Real Madrid. Éric was a starter for the Champions League Final where Barcelona defeated Manchester United 3-1.
The best moment of the celebration was when Abidal lifted the trophy as Barça won their second European title in three years.
In September of last year, Éric signed a two-year extension with FC Barcelona.
Abidal started 20 games in La Liga for el blaugrana this season. One of Éric’s best moments this season was the goal he scored against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabéu in the first leg of the 2011 Copa Del Rey quarterfinals. The Frenchman’s goal was the game winner and ultimately was the difference in the aggregate score.
There is a very high likelihood that Éric Abidal may not be able to play professional football again. I’m saddened to think Abi may never play again, but the most important thing is his health, not his football career.
Personally, I could care less if Abidal comes back to play football; I just want him to be OK.
Remember, football is only a sport. It’s not the most important thing on the world, even though we sometimes make it out to be.
To fans that will say that this will give Barcelona players more incentive to stage a comeback in La Liga, win the Copa Del Rey Final or win the UEFA Champions League, please stop. Don’t say that. No player in that locker room will play any harder because Abidal is out than they would if he was there.
Let’s be real; the team will dedicate the rest of the season to Éric, but by all means nothing positive—including motivation—comes out of having your teammate and friend go through a situation like this.
FC Barcelona would like everyone to respectfully give Éric Abidal and his family privacy during this time.
With all due respect to Éric Abidal and not trying to minimize, discard or disrespect Abidal’s situation, I want to talk about how Éric’s situation changes FC Barcelona’s summer signing situation for just a moment.
With Abidal leaving, there is no question that FC Barcelona’s number one priority this summer transfer window will be left back, in particular Valencia’s Jordi Alba.
In my opinion, Barcelona has to sign Jordi Alba. Barcelona were reportedly already going to make signing Alba their number one priority but now there is no going back; it’s Alba or nothing! The club needs to come to an agreement asap with Alba and Valencia for a transfer this summer before the other teams interested in Alba (Chelsea, Manchester United) try to swoop him up.
A few weeks ago, "Alba to Barça" was just a rumor but now according to SPORT.es, the deal is inevitable.
Alba was a Masia product from 1998 to 2005. He moved to UE Cornela short after that and in 2007 he was shipped to Valencia. Alba has slowly grown into an outstanding attacking LB and at times plays midfielder.
But now, in my opinion, FC Barcelona president Sandro Rosell’s number one priority has to be to sign Jordi Alba. Yes, there are other left backs that are options but Jordi is the best fit and makes the most sense. Jordi is a former Masia player so he knows some of the players because he used to be teammates with them when he was at La Masia.
He’s a LB/LWB that has shown he can come up and contribute to the offense. His style of play fits Pep Guardiola’s system and would be a great compliment to Dani Alves on the opposite side. Jordi would give el blaugrana two back-line threats in Alba and Alves. His lack of height (5’7”) could be seen as his flaw issue but his speed can make up for that.
As far as the need for a CB, perhaps Barcelona will go after Mats Hummels who has an estimated transfer value of €20 million. If the club signs Alba, Barça may not have enough funds to sign both Alba (release clause of €20 million) and Thiago Silva (release clause of over €30 million). It'll be very tough to convince Milan to depart with their best CB.
Alba plus Hummels would obviously come cheaper than Alba plus Silva. The most affordable option would be to not buy a CB and start giving more playing time to young Barcelona B center backs Marc Muniesa and Marc Bartra.
According to numerous reports in Spain, FC Barcelona will accelerate their efforts to signing Jordi Alba and attempt to buy Thiago Silva from Milan due to the lack of depth at CB combined now with Abidal out.
Only Sandro Rosell knows how much the club will spend this summer on the team's back line.
Who knows. With the remaining funds, Barcelona could always go after an offensive player like Neymar.
The next year’s back line will more than likely be: RWB Dani Alves, CB Gerard Piqué, CB Carles Puyol and LB Jordi Alba.
For the rest of the season, look for Adriano and Javier Mascherano to fill in for Abidal. Also, look for more 3-4-3 formations, especially in Liga play. Don’t be surprised to see Sergio Busquets moving to CB to help cover Zlatan Ibrahimovic with Puyol moving to LB when Barcelona takes on AC Milan in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals.
This has been a tough year for FC Barcelona on the pitch but it is absolutely nothing in comparison to the year Éric Abidal has had in this past year. God bless him and the strength that he’s had through all of this.
On twitter, Éric wrote:
“Bad news. But thanks to you who encourage me, thank you very much for all your messages of support. This makes me stronger.”
"Thank you from the heart. It's you (the fans) that makes me fight. THANK YOU"
“Mala noticia. Pero gracias a vosotros que me animan, muchas gracias por todos vuestros mensajes de apoyo. Esto me hace más fuerte, volveré!”
"Muchas gracias de Corazón, vosotros sois los que haceis que luche, GRACIAS"
If Éric never plays a game for FC Barcelona again, let me say thank you for the great memories, Éric. We Culés love you and you will always be remembered at the Camp Nou. We hope to see you at the Camp Nou, visiting the place you made tremendous plays at, for many years to come.
On behalf of all Culés, our thoughts and prayers go out to Éric Abidal and his family during this time. We all hope and pray for a speedy recovery.
Visca el Barça!
Often imitated by other writers but never duplicated, Xoel!
Thanks for reading. Look out for my next article later this week.
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