If his first-team comeback for Barcelona against Mallorca—when he replaced Gerard Pique—was seethed in heroism, Eric Abidal's departure from the club turned out to be slightly disgruntled.
Back in December, Barca vice president Josep Maria Bartomeu told radio station RAC1 (via Cristina Navarro of Marca) that the club wanted the French defender to remain at Camp Nou: "Abidal's new contract has been written and as soon as he plays his first game, we'll put pen to paper."
Circumstances didn't quite transpire like that, though. In fact, as the season reached its climax, it became evident that there would be no new deal for the 33-year-old.
Abidal had thought he could end his career with the Catalan club and was obviously disappointed when he told El Mundo (via Sky Sports) that he felt Barca didn't offer him an extension because they felt it was too risky:
They considered it a risk that something could happen to me and did not want the responsibility. But I will continue playing while my doctors give me permission—I will try to reach 35 before I retire.
I wanted to continue (at Barca) and this is not what I expected, but I leave with good memories. Barcelona have been my second family.
Following the news that he was free to leave the club, Abidal was linked with a return to Monaco, where he made his professional debut in 2000 with the club's B team.
On Monday morning, the deal was made official.
He has signed a one-year deal with an option of a further year. Despite the millions spent on players like Radamel Falcao, James Rodriguez and Joao Moutinho, he could prove to be Monaco's most astute piece of business, both on and off the field.
Abidal returns with a bulging trophy cabinet and a vast amount of experience which would benefit any club. With Lyon, he was part of three title-winning Ligue 1 campaigns. He has featured in four La Liga triumphs with Barcelona and started in La Blaugrana's 2011 Champions League final win over Manchester United.
His strength away from football could prove the major asset to Monaco, though. The former French international has undergone two operations in the last few years since it was revealed a tumor had been discovered on his liver.
From those operations, Abidal has twice fought back to return to the fore with Barcelona, and his strength has been admired by everyone in football.
Xavi Hernandez, in March 2011, was particularly inspired by Abidal's character. Per The Daily Mail:
He has shown he is an example to all humanity. For everything he represents—his values, his competitiveness, his recovery, his involvement, and overcoming [the illness] and wanting to be back. You wouldn't have thought he had even had an operation.
Monaco might not be signing the Abidal of old—although he more than held his own in his recent Barca performances—but they are getting a player who is versatile, experienced and a winner. Most importantly, he has a story which might help keep a dressing room, which is overflowing with money, more grounded than it might previously have been.
Les Rouge et Blanc may have an open check book, but by bringing Abidal back, they may have made the signing that money can't buy.