Barcelona defender Eric Abidal will leave the Nou Camp at the end of the season when his contract expires after a six-year spell at the club.

In March 2011, Abidal was diagnosed with a tumour in his liver and underwent an operation two days later. He made a return within two months and lifted the Champions League trophy after the victory over Manchester United at Wembley.

Health problems persisted and the 33-year old underwent a liver transplant in April 2012 but Abidal revealed his disappointment at being released.

"I would have liked to have stayed and played on at Barcelona but the club saw it differently and I have to respect their decision," Abidal told a press conference.

I hope to return because it is a very special club for me."

Abidal, who has 61 caps for France, has fought his way back into the Barcelona team and made his return to first-team action in April 2013.

Club president Sandro Rosell has hailed the left-back and insists that there would still be a role for Abidal at the club.

"He has won our hearts because you can never write him off," Rosell said.

"He has had the strength to overcome all types of difficulties - he has taught us life lessons we will never forget.

"We are not saying goodbye, only 'until we meet again'. When he wants to hang up his boots Barca will open their doors for him to come back and be technical director of the youth academy.

"It's what we want and what we think he would want. If he thinks he can help us in another way we will work on that option," added Rosell.

Abidal was signed by Barcelona from French side Lyon in 2007 and has won four La Liga titles and two Champions League crowns.

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