When the starting lineups were announced for Barcelona in its match against Levante, everyone was pleasantly surprised to see Eric Abidal making his first start in well over a year. But there was a bit of apprehension over how well he would actually play.
The French hero showed that he has not missed a step as he put in one of the best defensive performances of the year for the Barcelona back line.
Abidal, playing in the center of defense and not his customary left-back role, did not put a foot wrong the entire night. Not only was his play and reading of the game superb, his leadership was unquestionable.
The two-time cancer-beating defender aided in covering the space afforded by Adriano and was a vocal leader alongside Martin Montoya, who is still learning how to truly play on the left side of defense.
Every single attack that Levante had was either stomped out or forced out of position by the French international.
It is actually safe to say that Eric Abidal was the Barcelona defense on the night. Just check out some of his stats.
Eric Abidal also won every aerial he challenged for on the night and was not caught out of position once. His 87 touches were incredible for a defender, and his calmness on the pitch was something that cannot be recorded as a statistic.
No question, Abidal was incredible in his return to the Barcelona starting XI. But it is the story of how he got there that stands out above all else.
After spending over a year recovering from a liver transplant and beating cancer twice, no one really knew if Abidal would ever start or play a significant role again.
But his return to the starting XI has showed just how important it is to have hope and determination to never give up. Had Abidal not played as well as he did, his night would have still been incredible.
However, to come back from what he faced and put in a defensive master class leaves no question: Eric Abidal was Barcelona’s man of the match, and his story will fuel the Catalan throughout the rest of the season.
His presence has been immense and his talent is still incredible. He deserves the contract extension that he desires so badly, and the club would be wise to reward this hero.
Have your say below on the story of Eric Abidal and what his story means for football and fans everywhere.
Tre' Atkinson. Follow me on Twitter for more discussions on Abidal, Barcelona and La Liga.