After the initial shock, Barcelona’s Spanish midfielder echoed the mood within the camp: “These are difficult times for him and his family”, he said. “We have given him a lot of encouragement, but it was him who cheered us up most. He’s an example to all of us. This is the toughest time I’ve had at the club, but Abidal will get over it because mentally he’s one of the toughest people I know”, he added.
Abidal has played a key role in Barca’s success story since joining the club in 2007. This season the former Lyon man has made 33 appearances and scored just one goal, in the Copa del Rey. Xavi described the scene at training when Abidal broke the news to his fellow players: “He’s an example of positivity. He said that ‘that’s life’, that we carry on as we are and we beat Getafe on Saturday.”
Messages of goodwill have been pouring in from high-profile players and fans alike however on Wednesday evening Real Madrid and Olympique Lyon were denied permission by UEFA to wear shirts adorned with messages of support for the Frenchman. In a week where humanitarian disaster has dominated the front pages of newspapers with pictures plastered all over the screens of every television worldwide, Xavi brought the whole affair into perspective: “It seems to me that the decision is not very humane”, he remarked. “In life there are things far more important than football and sometimes we give priority to things that have nothing to do with what is really important.”
All things considered, this will probably be a week to forget for the Catalans however, one shred of positive news will be for young defender Andreu Fontas, who has been promoted to the senior squad until the end of the season as defensive cover. The 21-year-old Barca B team player has made a number of first-team appearances under Pep Guardiola already and has been impressive under the tutelage of B-team coach Luis Enrique, himself set to leave the club in the summer. Interestingly, every time the youngster has played in the first team, Guardiola’s men have not conceded one goal; an omen that the manager might hope will spur the team on in the final third of the season.
The Catalans’ attention now switches to Saturday when Getafe make the trip from Madrid to the Camp Nou. Fittingly, it was Xavi who had the final say pre-match: “We’ll try to win and dedicate it to Abi and his family.”