By Gregory Blachier
PARIS (Reuters) – Former Barcelona defender Eric Abidal never thought he could play for France again while he was recovering from a liver transplant but now hopes he will play next year’s World Cup in Brazil.
Abidal, 33, left Barcelona in the summer amid doubts over his ability to recapture his form. His spell at Nou Camp was marked by a couple of lengthy absences after he was diagnosed with a liver tumour and underwent an operation in March 2011, followed by the transplant in April last year.
But, after joining big-spending Ligue 1 newcomers Monaco, he was rewarded for his convincing performances in the pre-season games when France coach Didier Deschamps called him up for Wednesday’s international friendly in Belgium.
“I never had any hope for this after what I went through during two years,” Abidal told a news conference at Clairefontaine’s training camp, near Paris, on Monday.
“I am very proud to come back in the squad, to wear the blue jersey, which is so important for me, again,”
“I’m not going to say that being back with France was my first goal,” he added, referring to the months he spent recovering.
“Since it ended with Barca, a lot of things have happened. I’m very happy, I’m enjoying life, I want to have fun on the pitch. After all I’ve been through, I can only be happy to be able to play.”
Abidal, who last featured for Les Bleus in a friendly in Germany in February last year, is set to win his 62nd cap for France on Wednesday.
Deschamps hinted that Abidal would start at centre back.
“After including him in the squad, it would seem logical to me that he starts, considering what he represents,” Deschamps told reporters.
“I can’t see myself calling up a player like him, with his experience, and telling him : ‘You’re coming to breathe Clairefontaine’s air’.”
Abidal, who has been named captain by his Monaco coach Claudio Ranieri, hoped the new start would help him play his third World Cup after 2006 and 2010.
“I take things day by day. If I have fun with Monaco and if we have a good season, I will definitely stay with les Bleus. And I hope I’ll go to Brazil,” he said
France are second in their World Cup qualifying group with ten points, one behind world champions Spain. They visit Georgia on September 6 and Belarus four days later, before hosting Finland in the last round of matches in October.
(Reporting by Gregory Blachier; Editing by Brian Homewood)