Messages of support flooded in for Eric Abidal on this day nine years ago following the news that the then Barcelona defender was to undergo a liver transplant.

Team-mates, opposition players and fellow athletes wished Abidal the best after Barca announced the Frenchman would have a transplant in the weeks that followed, a year after having liver surgery to remove a tumour.

Carles Puyol, Barcelona captain at the time, said: “We had a meeting minutes before going on to the pitch. It was a rude awakening. Eric was at the meeting. We then talked to him, and logically that stays in the dressing room.

Eric Abidal lifts the Champions League
Eric Abidal won the Champions League with Barcelona (Nick Potts/PA)

“We are confident that he will come out of this. We will give him all the strength we have and we will support him and his family. I am convinced that soon he will be fine.

“He is very strong, he showed that last season and will prove it again. It’s a major blow. We had the news last season and now we get it again. But this will make us even stronger.”

Abidal had been a first-team regular in the 2011/12 season, starting 20 Primera Division games, although he had not played since suffering what was described as a hip injury while on international duty weeks earlier.

Striker David Villa said: “Giving Abidal all my support! You’ll come through this! You’re very strong. We’re all by your side. We need you in the team!”

Abidal’s fellow defender Gerard Pique also backed the Frenchman to come back stronger than ever, tweeting: “And you will return as always, still the best! You are an example for all!”

Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas said on his Facebook account: “All the encouragement in the world to a fellow professional. It doesn’t matter the colour of the shirt that is worn, the important thing is the person. Be strong Abidal!”

Abidal had the transplant the following month then spent the next year on the sidelines, returning to action in April 2013. However, he revealed he was not offered a new contract at Barcelona and he signed for Ligue 1 side Monaco a few months later.