Read in Catalan

Former FC Barcelona footballer Éric Abidal has issued a press release assuring that the liver that he received in a transplant operation several years ago was his cousin Gerard's. He made the statement following reports in a Spanish newspaper on Wednesday that Barça's then-president Sandro Rosell had bought an "illegal liver".

"My cousin Gerard donated his liver to save my life and for this I am very grateful to him", explains Abidal. A crystal clear statement, to which he added that the valid "procedures and protocols were followed at all times and all the medical documentation that proves so is available".

Abidal went so far as to sincerely apologise "if at any point there have been doubts about the unsoundness of the news published today".

The former French defender became a hero both on and off the pitch while at the Barcelona club, after the discovery of a tumour in his liver in early 2011 led to a difficult battle for his health, which saw him return to the team and play in that year's Barça win in the Champion's League final, before suffering a further complication that required the liver transplant. However, he eventually returned to the Barcelona first team once again. This year, he was appointed as football director of the club.

Sandra Rosell, Barça club president at the time of Abidal's health battle, is currently in prison on remand facing money laundering charges in connection with the club's signing of the Brazilian player Neymar. Rosell's lawyer answered the media report on Abidal's liver by recalling that the operation was carried out in Barcelona's world-renowned Hospital Clinic, part of the public health system: "It's strange to think you could buy an illegal liver and transplant it in a public hospital."