Abidal becomes latest departure at Barcelona

By Sports Desk August 18, 2020

Barcelona sporting director Eric Abidal has had his contract terminated by mutual consent, the LaLiga club have announced.

The former France international's departure continues a post-season overhaul at Camp Nou, with head coach Quique Setien sacked following the humiliating 8-2 Champions League quarter-final loss to Bayern Munich.

A report by Sport suggested the majority of the Barcelona first-team squad are up for sale ahead of Ronald Koeman's expected appointment as Setien's successor.

Lionel Messi is not among the vast list of Blaugrana players thought to be on the market, although a report by Marcelo Bechler – the journalist who broke news of Neymar's shock move from Barca to Paris Saint-Germain in 2017 – stated the six-time Ballon d'Or winner wants to leave.

What increasingly looks like a sizeable rebuild will now not be helmed by Abidal, who has been under pressure since the botched handling of Ernesto Valverde's departure.

Setien's predecessor was dismissed in January after Barcelona were knocked out of the Supercopa de Espana, despite them being top of LaLiga at that stage.

"FC Barcelona and Eric Abidal have reached an agreement for the termination of the contract which united both parties," a club statement read.

"The club publicly expresses its gratitude to Eric Abidal for the professionalism, commitment, dedication and positive and close treatment he has always shown towards all the estates that make up the Barca family and wishes him luck and success in the future."

Abidal always looked vulnerable after Barcelona's collapse at home – Real Madrid regained the LaLiga title – and abroad, yet a report by Cadena Cope late on Monday said he would remain in his post.

Despite a succession of underwhelming and expensive signings since his June 2018 appointment, from a flop on the grand scale of the now departed Malcom to the hugely underwhelming and publicly pursued Antoine Griezmann, Abidal's handling of Valverde's exit marked something of a nadir.

A coach responsible for back-to-back LaLiga triumphs, albeit set alongside painful Champions League exits at the hands of Roma and Liverpool, was undermined by reports of Abidal apparently courting Xavi for his post, only for the club great to reject a return to Barcelona in the dugout and pave the way for Setien's doomed tenure.

Most significantly, especially given recent reports around the 33-year-old captain's future, Messi reacted furiously to Abidal's suggestion the Barcelona players had not been working hard enough under Valverde.

In an Instagram post in February, Messi wrote: "Honestly, I don’t like doing these things but I think that everyone has to be responsible for his acts and take responsibility for their own decisions.

"The players [are responsible for] what happens on the pitch, and we have been the first to recognise when we were not good. The people in the sporting directorate should also assume their responsibility and above all take ownership of the decisions they make.

"Finally, I think that when players are talked about, names should be given because, if not, we are all being dirtied and it feeds comments that are made and are not true."

The prolonged torment of the past few months stands in stark contrast to Abidal's inspirational playing days at Barcelona.

A €9million signing from Lyon in 2007, he went on to star in the 2008-09 treble-winning side under Pep Guardiola – the honours of that season being the first of four LaLiga titles, two Champions Leagues and two Copas del Rey that Abidal won as a player in Catalonia.

In March 2011, Abidal was diagnosed with a tumour in his liver and underwent surgery to have it removed. Remarkably, he was back in action before the end of the season and played 90 minutes in the 3-1 Champions League final win over Manchester United, after which he was handed the captain's armband to lift the trophy at Wembley.

The 67-cap France international was forced to undergo a liver transplant the following year but again made a comeback before moving to Monaco at the end of the 2012-13 campaign, eventually retiring as a player in December 2014 after a short stint at Olympiacos.

Related items

  • Vinicius revels in match-winning Madrid cameo Vinicius revels in match-winning Madrid cameo

    Vinicius Junior felt his introduction alongside Marco Asensio turned Real Madrid's LaLiga meeting with Real Valladolid in the champions' favour.

    Brazilian Vinicius grabbed the only goal in Wednesday's 1-0 win after arriving from the bench in the 58th minute.

    Madrid had dominated up to that stage, but Luka Jovic – the man Vinicius replaced – missed two big chances and had a third well saved by Roberto.

    With Jovic continuing to toil amid reports of interest from Manchester United, Zinedine Zidane turned to his bench and made a triple change, with Dani Carvajal joining Vinicius and Asensio.

    Although the pattern of the game did not vastly change, Vinicius found the net and later hailed Zidane's substitutions.

    "We are all happy with the game," the 20-year-old said. "The first half was more complicated, but Zidane changed the system in the second.

    "He brought Asensio and I on and we were able to change the game."

    It was a second straight win for Madrid, although they were similarly made to work hard in a 3-2 success at Real Betis.

    "It was a different game from Betis," Vinicius said. "[Valladolid] put a lot of people behind the ball, but the important thing is that we won both games."

    Jovic's struggles were further evidence of a slow start for Madrid's attack this season, having drawn 0-0 at Real Sociedad in their LaLiga opener.

    But Vinicius is encouraged by the way the team's defence is performing to keep their misfiring team-mates in matches.

    "It's the beginning of the season – we haven't play friendlies and we had little time to train," he said.

    "We know that if we do not concede, we have many options in attack. We continue working with Zidane to improve up front. The system depends on the players and each opponent."

  • Solskjaer 'never surprised' by Mata quality as midfielder reaches 50 goals for Man Utd Solskjaer 'never surprised' by Mata quality as midfielder reaches 50 goals for Man Utd

    Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is "never surprised" to see Juan Mata take control of matches after the midfielder scored one and set up another in Manchester United's 3-0 EFL Cup victory over Brighton and Hove Albion.

    Mata picked out Scott McTominay from a free-kick for United's opener in Wednesday's last-16 tie before profiting from a brilliant Donny van de Beek assist to bring up his 50th goal for the club.

    The 32-year-old also scored in the third-round win over Luton Town and has now been directly involved in 13 goals in his last 15 starts for United.

    He has not been part of Solskjaer's squad for the opening two rounds of Premier League fixtures, but the United head coach is happy with the Spaniard's latest contribution in the cup competitions.

    "It was a great performance by Juan Mata," Solskjaer told Sky Sports. "He was the one who got on the ball and calmed us down. He was composed. 

    "He more or less creates the first goal himself. I am never surprised when he plays like this.

    "He has been around the block and knows football. He does his work and is at the back stick to shield the ball from Dan Burn at a corner in the second half."

    Victory for United was their third in a row in all competitions, four days on from snatching a last-gasp 3-2 win over Brighton at the same venue in the Premier League.

    Paul Pogba rounded off the scoring for United 11 minutes after being brought off the bench in a morale-boosting win for Solskjaer's side following some below-par performances to begin the campaign.

    "We needed the first 20-25 minutes to get our confidence and get on the ball. We have worked on set-pieces. You keep a clean sheet and this is important for a back four," he said.

    "We wanted to bring on Pogba for 25-30 minutes for a workout. The game was there for him. Paul and Marcus [Rashford] found some good positions."

    United continue to be linked with Jadon Sancho - left out of Borussia Dortmund's squad for Wednesday's 3-2 DFL-Supercup loss to Bayern Munich because of illness - with five days of the transfer window to go.

    And while remaining tight-lipped on speculation that United have had another bid knocked back, Solskjaer is confident his bosses are doing all they can to bring in additional quality.

    "I can't give you any news," he said when asked directly about the Sancho situation. "We are working with what we have got. We have a big squad. 

    "We changed 10 players from Saturday. If there is any update, we will let you know. I don't comment on other teams' players. I can't concern myself with other clubs. 

    "I know the club is working well and hard to have a strong squad as possible. Sometimes speculation is there and we can't control that."

  • Guardiola confirms Zinchenko injury, bids farewell to Otamendi Guardiola confirms Zinchenko injury, bids farewell to Otamendi

    Oleksandr Zinchenko is out for "two or three weeks" with an injury, according to Manchester City head coach Pep Guardiola, who may now be forced into bringing in additional cover at left-back.

    Utility player Zinchenko, who has yet to play a single minute for City in 2020-21, provided cover at left-back last season while Benjamin Mendy battled with injuries.

    Mendy is fit again and featured in City's 3-0 EFL Cup victory over Burnley on Wednesday, but Guardiola confirmed after the game that Zinchenko has suffered a set-back in his recovery from a muscle injury.

    "Yesterday, or two days ago, he was injured again," Guardiola told reporters.

    "He was recovered, but he got injured again and is out for two or three weeks."

    Guardiola also paid tribute to Nicolas Otamendi after the Argentine defender joined Benfica, with Ruben Dias coming the other way.

    Otamendi made 210 appearances during his five-year spell at City, scoring 11 goals and lifting the Premier League trophy twice.

    After arriving at City in the Manuel Pellegrini era, Otamendi went on to thrive under Guardiola, who picked out the 2017-18 season as the 32-year-old's best.

    "Well, he was part of our incredible success and consistency is for Nico," Guardiola told reporters.

    "He is an incredibly nice guy and especially the season we won the Premier League with 100 points, he was the key player for us.

    "In the back four he was incredible. We thought we needed a young squad. He was more than 30.

    "I wish him and his family all the best. My absolute gratitude for how he helped me from day one and his desire to improve. He will always be part of my best memories here in Manchester."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.