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French international defender Eric Abidal, who underwent a liver transplant last April, is on his way back and played in a training match for Barcelona reserves against French second division side Istres, his club said Tuesday.
"For Abidal, it was his first match aside from training sessions he has been having since December - he played 65 minutes against Istres," Barcelona said on their website.
Abidal is hoping to return to action 11 months on from his surgery, having been given medical clearance last month.
He first had a tumour removed from his liver in March 2011 but returned to playing less than two months later and lifted the Champions League trophy as Barca won the competition for a fourth time.
But he has not played for the first team since February of last year.
Although Abidal looks to be on the way back, some organ transplant specialists have doubted whether he can really return to top-flight football, given the potential risk of damage to the new organ in a highly physical sport.
Barca's first team doctor Ricard Pruna said Saturday he believed Abidal was "close" to being able to return.
"One cannot say exactly when, but his morale is good as he sees he has done the hardest part. Of course it depends on the coaches but he is close" to coming back, said Pruna.