Abidal poised for Barcelona return
February 21, 2013 -- Updated 1931 GMT (0331 HKT)
French defender Eric Abidal moved to Spanish club Barcelona from Lyon in 2007
- Barcelona's Eric Abidal is given the all clear to play again for Barcelona
- French defender has been out for nearly a year after a liver transplant
- Barca midfieler Xavi says Abidal's return is "the best news of the year"
(CNN) -- Barcelona may be licking their wounds after a 2-0 European Champions League defeat to AC Milan but on Thursday they received a boost that star midfielder Xavi described as "the best news of the year."
Eric Abidal, who has spent nearly a year out of the game after having a liver transplant, has been declared fit enough to rejoin Barca's first team squad.
It is positive news for Barcelona whose manager Tito Vilanova is currently in New York receiving treatment for throat cancer.
The French defender last played for Barca on February 26 last year and underwent surgery in April. He also had a tumor removed in March 2011.
Mendieta: Barca, Real out in front
Messi claims fourth Ballon d'Or
Abidal spent two months on a specific training program designed by club physio Emili Ricart before training with the rest of the squad from the middle of December.
But now he is back in contention for a first team place.
A statement on Barca's official website read: "Following training Eric Abidal received the wonderful news that he is in good enough condition to play for the first team in what remains of the current season."
The club's players were delighted the 33-year-old had completed his recovery. Xavi, who has spent his entire career at the Spanish giants told the website: "It's the best news of the year.
"It's not a great day coming back after a 2-0 defeat, but seeing Abidal, how he trains and gives it everything and that he's now able to return to playing is a source of motivation. It's the best news we could have had."
Club captain Carles Puyol took to social networking site Twitter to say: "Today is the best news for Barcelonistas and football. Abidal has already been discharged. With him we are stronger."
Barca suffered just their second defeat in 22 matches when they went down 2-0 to Milan in the first leg at the San Siro.
The club are striving for their fifth title in European football's most prestigious competition. The second leg at the Nou Camp is on March 12.
Part of complete coverage on
Be part of CNN's coverage of European Champions League matches and join the social debate.
Some of the biggest names in football lined up for a charity match, but CNN's Tom McGowan wonders if they can help beat poverty.
March 4, 2014 -- Updated 1555 GMT (2355 HKT)
"Everyone is scared about war -- they are very nervous," former Ukraine football star Oleg Luzhny says of the rising tensions with Russia.
After a miserable Champions League defeat to Olympiakos, CNN's John Sinnott wonders if Manchester United is officially in trouble.
February 26, 2014 -- Updated 1807 GMT (0207 HKT)
Bayern Munich's present success rests on one key decision, chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge tells CNN.
February 18, 2014 -- Updated 0922 GMT (1722 HKT)
"More than a Club." It is an image Barcelona has carefully cultivated, but could the controversial deal to sign Neymar sour that view?
CNN's David Ford analyzes the changing face of Manchester City since Barcelona's last visit to the English club 11 years ago.
February 1, 2014 -- Updated 1825 GMT (0225 HKT)
Affectionately known as "the wise man of Hortaleza," Luis Aragones -- who died aged 75 -- left the legacy of helping Spain's ascension to the top.
January 23, 2014 -- Updated 2118 GMT (0518 HKT)
Real Madrid hasn't won the European Champions League in over a decade, but the Spanish club is invincible in one field -- making money.
January 16, 2014 -- Updated 1449 GMT (2249 HKT)
A ruling that Polish fans will not face legal action after anti-Semitic chanting sparks debate over whether it signals acceptance of such attacks.
The naming of the world's best footballer is not all that it seems, says CNN's James Masters.
If FIFA really cared about gay rights, why did it give the World Cup to a country where homosexuality is illegal, asks CNN's James Masters.
CNN's Alex Thomas takes a brave punt on the 2014 champion ahead of Friday's World Cup draw.
Today's five most popular stories