PARIS (AP) — Eric Abidal has claimed he was not paid by Barcelona when he was seriously ill and is angry at how his time with the Spanish club came to an end.
Barcelona responded on Friday by denying that it had withheld any of his salary. The 34-year-old Abidal had a liver transplant last April, ruling him out of the 2012 European Championship and keeping him away from football for one year. He returned to make a few appearances for Barcelona at the tail end of the 2012-13 season before leaving to join Monaco.
"The problem was that my contract was coming to an end. In that case, either it's renewed, either it ends. I was prepared for both," Abidal said in an interview with sports daily L'Equipe published Friday. "It was hard to accept but you don't have the choice. The adventure with Barcelona is over, but I'm very happy to have started another one with Monaco."
Abidal also said he was disappointed at how his departure was announced. "What was hard to understand was what Barcelona said during my last press conference. By saying that it was a professional choice, it made other clubs doubt," Abidal said. "It wasn't even a question of money. The proof being that all the months I was ill, the club didn't pay me. Now I'm lucky to have the trust of the Monaco coach and president. Touch wood, everything's fine. But it's true that there was a time when I doubted myself."
Barcelona said in a statement that it had spoken to Abidal and his agent and that "both confirmed that the club had dutifully complied with its contractual commitments." The Spanish champions added that when Abidal fell ill "Barcelona and the player mutually agreed to suspend his contract until he received medical clearance. During that entire period, Eric Abidal received the monthly payment that had been agreed upon, and once he rejoined the team he received the remaining part of his salary."
Abidal has played 90 minutes for Monaco in every league game this season and the full game for France on Friday in its World Cup qualifier at Georgia. After joining from Lyon in 2007, Abidal played 125 league games for Barcelona, helping the Catalan club to win four league titles and two European Cups. He forged a close bond with former coach Pep Guardiola, who is now in charge of Bayern Munich.
"He's someone who appreciates me enormously and I'm still in touch with," Abidal said. "He was a great coach. He's the one who gave me my chance. If he was still there, I may have continued (with Barcelona)."