The Frenchman returned after 14 months out recovering from a liver transplant and cancer treatment in the 5-0 win against Mallorca last night.
Barcelona really are just too good. With Lionel Messi out of their game with RCD Mallorca last night many people were lead to believe it could result in a struggle for the Catalan champions-elect but the opposite could not have been more on point.
Messi’s replacement Cesc Fabregas was the player of the night. The former Arsenal man bagged an impressive hat-trick for Blaugrana and with Alexis grabbing a brace himself Tito Villanova’s men romped to a 5-0 victory against the relegation threatened islanders.
It was a truly efficient display that highlighted Barcelona’s dexterity even without the world’s best player in their team and would have sent chills down the spines of Paris Saint-Germain; despite an impressive 2-2 draw in the first leg of their Champions League quarter final tie.
For Barca however it was not just the result that made last night at the Nou Camp quite so impressive and memorable.
For there was also a moment which highlighted quite how insignificant a 90 minute game of football truly is when a substitution was made in the 70th minute.
Off came Gerard Pique and in his place Eric Abidal; the French internationals first game in over a year ever since he had a liver transplant after suffering cancer in the organ.
After the game he revealed his thanks and debt of gratitude to his cousin who donated part of his own liver in order to save Abidal’s life:
"It was a very special moment for me after a year out, I want to thank my cousin as without him I would not be here today. It is a unique moment,"
It was yet another reminder of how, while football gets a bad press for all that is undeniably wrong about the game, that when a member of the football family is struggling everyone pulls together for the greater good.
With the near-passing of Fabrice Muamba a little over a year ago and Stillian Petrov’s continued battle with leukaemia we as English football fans know all too well what it is like to wish the best for one of our stars.
In Spain such horrors as the recent death of former Liverpool defender Miki Roque have shocked the nation while Tito Villanova, standing side-by-side with Abidal before he entered the fray once again, is also battling the disease in his salivary gland.
Which made the miraculous story of Eric Abidal’s comeback all the more poignant.
Here is a video of the comeback and some Tweets of delighted support for the 33-year-old…
Great to see Eric abidal back playing again!! after what he has come through its great to see— Bradley Johnson (@Bradley4Johnson) April 6, 2013
What a man Eric Abidal !!!— KF21 (@KerimFrei21) April 6, 2013
Great to hear That Abidal returned to the pitch. A heartwarming and remarkable tale. #animsabidal— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) April 6, 2013
Tw Thiago: "Today the result doesn't matter, the main thing has a name, Monsieur Eric Abidal!!! AN EXAMPLE twitter.com/Thi_Alcantara9…"— barcastuff (@barcastuff) April 7, 2013
image: © NathanF