Eric Abidal’s liver transplant
Now 40, Eric Abidal is the current director of football at Barcelona.
Back in 2011, when he was still on Barcelona’s book as a defender, Abidal was diagnosed with cancer.
Abidal needed a liver transplant to save his life, and happily, the operation was a success.
However, in recent years, rumours have circled that something shady may have happened during Abidal’s liver transplant operation.
Who was the donor?
At the time of the operation, Eric Abidal’s cousin, Gerard Armand, was cited as the liver donor.
However, in 2018, the Spanish press broke the news that there may have been some illegality with regard to the liver transplant.
Back in July 2018, Spanish paper El Confidencial confirmed that the Spanish Civil Guard and the National Police intercepted at least four phone calls in which Sandro Rosell, the former president of Barcelona, implicitly admitted having tried to buy an illegal liver for Abidal.
But did Rosell actually buy Eric Abidal a liver on the black market?
Las conversaciones que desvela @elconfidencial son increíbles. No sé si es crueldad de Sandro Rosell o si fue por ayudar a Eric Abidal. Pero pobre chico, él no sabía nada de los chanchullos detrás de su hígado. #EricAbidal #SandroRosell 😳 pic.twitter.com/iSsDKyYGdn
— Marta Llopis (@LlopisMarta95) July 4, 2018
Gerard Armand fears ‘something happened’ during the Barcelona star’s liver transplant
Today, El Confidencial have published the first-ever interview in the Spanish press with Abidal’s cousin, Gerard Armand, revealing his side of the story with regards to the Abidal liver transplant fiasco.
This interview was conducted days after Gerard Armand testified in Spanish court on the same topic.
In a remarkable interview, Gerard Armand told his story.
The main takeaways from the interview were the following: (a) Gerard Armand believed he gave his liver to Abidal, (b) he received no compensation for his liver, but (c) he’s fearful that something bad may have happened.
Con la publicación de esta imagen quiero pedir respeto hacia mi primo Gerard y defender su honorabilidad.
Denuncio públicamente la actitud de algunos medios que siguen poniendo en duda la legalidad de una intervención que me salvó la vida¡Basta ya! pic.twitter.com/d8Nui1bJWQ
— Eric Abidal (@EAbidalOfficial) July 5, 2018
Gerard Armand’s interview with El Confidencial – translated
Q. What family bond do you have with Eric Abidal?
A. We are first cousins. His father is my mother’s brother.
Q. Can you confirm that you gave a part of your liver to Eric?
A. Yes, I confirm it. I am the donor.
Q. Before the transplant, what was your relationship with him?
A. When we were little, I spent the holidays at his home. Several years, with his family.
Q. Where did he live then?
R. In Lyon. We were 14 or 15-years-old. Then we drifted… and I had no news. He started his life as a professional footballer. The truth is that I saw him again when he left to play with Barcelona.
El primo de Abidal: “Creo que pasó algo; espero que Éric no tenga nada que ver” https://t.co/2R4z49tpty
— El Confidencial (@elconfidencial) November 18, 2019
Q. When did Eric contact you to talk about your illness?
R. It was not (Eric) who called me, but his wife. It was in February 2012, just before the operation.
Q. Why do you think he didn’t ask for it himself?
A. From what I understood, Eric was not aware that his wife had called me.
Q. Do you think he didn’t want to ask you?
R. I do not know. All I know is that his wife called me and told me that Eric was not aware (of the phone call) and that she was calling because it was urgent and that he had decided from the outset, that the donor should come from a living person. But then (his situation) got worse, the tumor was growing and the operation was urgent, so he ended up accepting it.
Q. When they called you, had you and Eric not spoken for a long time?
R. We had not seen each other for years, we were both living our lives, and we had not seen each other.
Q. Why did you accept the proposal of Eric’s wife to help?
A. It seemed normal, it is human. Eric is my family, and he needed my liver to stay alive. Without hesitation, I accepted. Besides, at that time I was not well. I was 31-years-old, I was single, I still had no woman, and I was wondering ‘what am I here for?’ So when she called me, I thought that God had given me a sign, giving me the chance to do something good.
Q. Actually, when Eric’s wife called you, it wasn’t known if you could be the donor, right?
A. No, it was not confirmed. He asked me what my blood group was, because it was an important issue. I told him. He told me he would call me in 10 minutes. He called me and that was when he explained to me about cancer, and that a donor was needed. Until then, I didn’t know about his cancer and then I understood. Later, they tested me and saw that it was compatible.
Q. No biopsies were needed to know if they were compatible?
A. Biopsies … I don’t know. I was tested at the hospital. So I didn’t understand anything, I didn’t even know Spanish.
Q. Do you know if they looked for other donors? Did you get in touch with other cousins, with other family members?
A. Yes, they tried to call others. I guess the others said no. I said yes. There were two possible donors, a friend of mine and me, and the surgeons chose my liver.
Q. At any time during this process did you contact an agency of representatives of Eric, his agent that was in Lyon? That agency was the one that contributed its documentation to the Hospital Clínic. This is stated in the transplant file. Did you have to do some paperwork with them?
R. No, nothing. Two weeks after the call, I was already in Barcelona. Everything went very fast. I did the tests in the hospital. They explained the risks, how they were going to operate on me, all that. Eric was on the waiting list. They had done all the tests and when the tumor started to grow, they told me that they could no longer wait. They waited until the last moment. The surgeons said they couldn’t wait any longer, and that they had to do it with me, and in the end the operation was done.
Q. Did someone explain the risk of the operation? That you risked your life?
A. Yes. I had an appointment with the surgeons. They explained that it was more dangerous for the donor than for the recipient. More dangerous for me than for him. They explained the risks to me and asked if I still agreed. But I had already decided to do it when his wife called me. At no time I was afraid.
Q. And you agreed?
Q. How was it? I imagine that changed the relationship between you …
A. Well, the days before the operation the relationship was good, very good. We hadn’t seen each other in a while, so we met again. It was awesome.
Q. After the operation, I imagine there was a recovery time. How was your relationship with Eric at that time?
A. I stayed a month and a half in the hospital, then another month and a half at Eric’s house. At the end of June 2012 I returned to my house. Then we kept in touch, we went on a trip together, the whole family. But little by little we drifted apart.
Q. When he was in Barcelona, at Eric’s house, did you accompany him to training and live with him?
A. It was not possible. We were very weak. Eric had lost a lot of weight, he was very weak. There were no outings, no parties … He had lost a lot and was still recovering. We weren’t going out or going to have fun.
Q. But there are images of you with the team and in matches?
A. That was later. At that time I was like family. I was part of the club. I could go to games and training.
Q. So, did that happen after your return to Lyon?
A. Yes. They invited me to watch games and training. I watched the game in which they lost 5-0 to Bayern. They also paid tribute to me at the Nou Camp, where I entered the field.
Q. Do you remember the trip that both families made? When it was?
A. I don’t remember when it was.
Q. Where did they go?
R. I don’t know if I should say…
A. I don’t know if he … Although I don’t care today… The thing is that we went on vacation, like everyone else, that’s it.
Q. Did Eric pay for that trip?
A. We all put some money, but basically yes, Eric paid for the trip. I don’t know if everyone (chipped in).
Q. What did you think when you read the intercepted conversations with (Sandro) Rosell? What did you think they could be saying?
A. I was stunned. I am the one who has given the liver. I did not understand anything at all. People from my family came to see me. I was a month and a half in the hospital. And when I read that the liver that Eric received was perhaps not mine, I was stunned. At first I laughed. I was thinking, but what are these people saying?
Q. Do you think someone paid for your liver? That someone took advantage your generosity?
A. When I read the news, I first thought that it was barbaric, since I was the liver donor. Then, after several months, I asked myself many questions. I tried to imagine all the possibilities. I didn’t understand anything at all and I still don’t understand it. That is why I appeared before court, because I want to know if someone made a profit from my donation, with my body …
Q. You want closure?
R. Sure, and I want to clean my honor. It is important.
Q. Actually, I don’t think you’ve ever been in doubt as the donor. The question is whether you, or someone else, charged or received any compensation for the donation.
A. In addition to testifying in court, I had an X-ray to see if I was missing the liver lobe, and a DNA test to find out if I was really his cousin. But now the questions have nothing to do with being the donor but with money, with wiretapping. They say there is money that someone has collected. I am not aware of anything.
Q. Do you maintain that you received nothing in return?
A. Yes, nothing at all. My lawyer came to see me in Barcelona, and I told him the same thing that I said in court – I kept my old car, worked in the same company and right now I’m registered for unemployment … If I had collected that money, I would have changed of work, my car, my life.
Q. But you got something? Did Eric give you something, help or compensate you in any way for being your donor?
A. No. At the outset, when his wife called me, the first thing he told me is that it was not possible to pay me, or give a reward, because it was considered (organ) trafficking. Nor would I have wanted it, because Eric is family, he is my cousin. I did it for my cousin. I have not charged for that operation. Make it clear in your newspaper: I have not been paid anything in this matter.
Q. What is your relationship now with Eric?
R. What is it like now? I haven’t heard from him in about eight or nine months. I don’t talk to him anymore. All I want is for this matter to end once and for all, and to resume my life normally. I have no news, nor do I know if he is sad or happy. I do not know.
Q. Do you think (you haven’t spoken) because of the court case?
A. Well, I decided not to talk to him anymore. What I wanted, at least, was a human recognition on his part, and he has not given it to me. And it hurt.
Q. Why do you think Eric has acted that way?
R. I don’t know. I don’t know if he is afraid or if he is calm or worried. What I know is that I don’t want to know more about this matter, what I want is to get to the bottom of the matter. I went to court yesterday, I said what I had to say… You have to know the truth, to clean my honor, as a donor. If someone has made a profit without knowing it, at my expense, it seems very serious.
Q. What did you say to the judge?
A. He asked me the same questions. I told him about my relationship with Eric, they asked me for proof that I was still working in the same company … I showed everything, my payrolls, the document of being in the unemployment file, the same questions …
Q. And you answered the same thing, that you hadn’t charged for Eric’s liver?
A. Yes, exactly the same.
Q. Do you think someone has been able to profit from your operation?
A. Now, over time, I think there may be something. I would like to know what it is. If it’s nothing, great. And if there is something, I don’t know how to say it, but I hope that Eric is not aware, that he has nothing to do with the matter. If not, this issue will get very ugly. Anyway, they’ve questioned me, they’re going to question Eric and they’re going to question Sandro Rosell to give explanations about the conversations.