Nissan Trophy Tour 2020

Éric Abidal: Celtic Park was as loud as thunder

In this series of interviews, five champions talk fans, glory and getting their hands on club football’s biggest prize

INTERVIEW Michael Harrold

Talk to Éric Abidal about the Champions League and the memories come flooding back. Top of the list, Barcelona captain Carles Puyol’s heartfelt gesture to let him lift the trophy in his place in 2011 after the Frenchman’s brave recovery from cancer. Up there too is the joy and release following Lionel Messi’s goal, also against Manchester United, in the 2009 final. Thoughts turn as well to those distant days of fan-filled stadiums and in particular one night at Celtic Park and a 3-2 win against the Scottish champions in the round of 16 in February 2008. Messi scored twice, but it’s the roar of the crowd that sticks most in the memory. “Someone talked to me on the pitch, but I couldn’t hear what they were saying. For the first three or four minutes, before the match kicked off, it was like a clap of thunder.”

Abidal is speaking to me after spending time, via Zoom, watching clips of the 2011 final with a family of awestruck Barcelona fans. If speaking to the Barcelona legend was one thing, imagine their surprise when the Champions League trophy was delivered to their doorstep as part of the UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour driven by Nissan LEAF. “I think they found the experience a bit scary at first, they were a bit shy, but they asked some questions and we watched some clips from matches,” he says. “I was proud to do it, to share my stories and the things I’ve been through.” Here, in the second of a series of interviews with five former champions, Abidal discusses what the trophy, the fans and the atmosphere on a Champions League night mean to him.

Tell us what it’s like to lift this trophy…

It’s a magic moment, a special moment. Not many players get the chance to experience it. It’s an intense emotion; when it happens, it’s an explosion of different things, but with time you realise how big an achievement it is and what it means to you.

Éric Abidal lifts the trophy after Barça’s 2011 Wembley win


What does the trophy represent for you?

It’s football history. The history of a club. It’s making history. It’s also what makes a player, more or less – the chance to play in this competition. I’m proud to have played in the competition, and proud of what we did, not only to have won it but especially for the style of play we had at the time. You always have your idols and your reference points that make you dream. But when you’ve had the chance to experience it yourself, you realise how intense the moment is and that you want to experience it in the best way possible, as the best professional, the best competitor. And when you win the trophy, you then become an example for a lot of youngsters and for the next generation.

Is there one memory with the trophy that stands out for you?

It’s not really the moment of lifting the trophy [in 2011]; that was a decision taken by the captain and the staff. Compared to what I’d been through over the previous few months with the illness, the moment Carles Puyol told me was a shock. I told him that it was completely crazy to do that. He was our captain and it was for him to lift the trophy. But it’s at times like that that you realise that in sport, there really is a brotherhood, a respect and teamwork. I gave him all my thanks, and I thanked all the people on the staff – it was that group who gave me the chance to experience this.

Lifting the trophy is a special moment for a player, of course, but what about what it means to the fans…

I don’t have a particular image. After the match we had the chance to see our family and friends and shared a special moment – I think they were unique moments for the fans too, for those in the stadium or watching on TV. But my biggest supporters were always my parents and my family, and so I thought of them a lot. It’s also a stressful time; before you can celebrate the victory for your team, for your club and for your fans, you have to play the game and you have to pay attention throughout the entire match to try and win the trophy. It’s always a collective victory and, when you win, the chance to share it with joy and a smile is always better.

Is the trophy still special for you today?

Of course, because I know how difficult it is to win.


Speaking of supporters, can you remember a match you played in where they really made the difference?

I won’t speak about a particular game, because there were plenty where the supporters helped us surpass ourselves. But a game I attended as a fan was the Barcelona-Paris Saint-Germain match [Barça winning 6-1 to overturn a 4-0 deficit in 2017]. For the last three goals, especially the sixth, the fans really made the difference. Today we see their importance: we have top-level matches in empty stadiums; teams are missing their 12th man. I think the players feel it. I was in the stands [for that Paris game] and I was part of the 12th man pushing the team on and making that dream come true. It was a miracle at the time; I only had a small voice but all the encouragement from the stands, particularly in the last quarter of an hour, made a difference to the team.

The atmosphere must have been incredible…

The big moment for the players was when Neymar scored a free-kick [in the 88th minute]. Then they felt everything was possible – and they felt the power of the supporters who were pushing them and helping them to surpass themselves, to make the necessary effort to make the difference. In the end it paid off, of course, and finished well for Barcelona. It was a unity of the group, a connection between the pitch, the players and the fans. Everyone was going in the same direction for the same objective.

Now everyone has to watch from home. What’s match night like chez Éric Abidal?

Covid has complicated everything. I always have friends inviting me to their house to watch the matches together, but it’s always in small numbers. We try to share moments when we can. A lot depends on the time of the match. We have a bite to eat and some drinks and try to have a good time, hoping for some good football and a good result.

This article is one in a series of five interviews conducted by Champions Journal with former winners Ashley Cole, Cafu, Éric Abidal, Christian Karembeu and Marcel Desailly. They were taking part in the UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour driven by Nissan LEAF, whereby five Nissan LEAF-owning fans enjoyed the surprise delivery of the cup with the big ears. The fans then linked up online with one of the above legends to watch clips and talk about a final they played in – and won. Follow this year's Trophy Tour @nissansports on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Best of the best
Éric Abidal’s Champions League Best of the Best…

Moment

The 2011 final at Wembley. The whole thing. I wouldn’t pick a single moment, but everything that happened from before the match to after it.

Goal

Messi’s goal in the 2009 final against Manchester United in Rome. That was a kind of deliverance for us, even if I was suspended. And scoring with a header! As for a match I didn’t play in, I’d say Sergi Roberto’s goal against Paris, the sixth [and decisive goal in the Remontada].

Lionel Messi heads in Barça’s second during the 2009 final

Opponent

Thinking about my position, there were a lot of players who had different characteristics; Robben at Bayern München, Ribéry, Cristiano Ronaldo – both at Real Madrid and Manchester United – David Beckham at the time. I played against Figo, Raúl. They were all different types of players, but I don’t want to pick the best, because I think the best player was on my team.

Team-mate

Messi. By a long way. That’s why he’s won so many Ballon d’Ors. What makes the difference for Messi is how long he’s been at the top. A career like that is never easy. It started at a very high level when he was very, very young, and he’s maintained that level over the years and that’s what makes him a great player. You have to admire the work he’s done and the talent he has, but also the calmness and mental strength he’s shown.

Atmosphere

I have two. Barça-Madrid in 2011 and Celtic-Barcelona. I’d often heard talk about Celtic, the atmosphere and the stadium, the incredible vibe, but it really made an impact. I’d seen the atmosphere in the stands but, on that day, when someone talked to me on the pitch, I couldn’t hear what they were saying. We got a good result [a 3-2 win], but for the first three or four minutes, before the match kicked off, it was like a clap of thunder. It was really something. I think lots of players would talk about that atmosphere because they live football in a completely different way. In some countries where there’s a football culture, the country breathes football. That’s why I picked those two matches; the match in 2011 was quite something for us, but an away game is never easy – especially when you saw Celtic.

Talk to Éric Abidal about the Champions League and the memories come flooding back. Top of the list, Barcelona captain Carles Puyol’s heartfelt gesture to let him lift the trophy in his place in 2011 after the Frenchman’s brave recovery from cancer. Up there too is the joy and release following Lionel Messi’s goal, also against Manchester United, in the 2009 final. Thoughts turn as well to those distant days of fan-filled stadiums and in particular one night at Celtic Park and a 3-2 win against the Scottish champions in the round of 16 in February 2008. Messi scored twice, but it’s the roar of the crowd that sticks most in the memory. “Someone talked to me on the pitch, but I couldn’t hear what they were saying. For the first three or four minutes, before the match kicked off, it was like a clap of thunder.”

Abidal is speaking to me after spending time, via Zoom, watching clips of the 2011 final with a family of awestruck Barcelona fans. If speaking to the Barcelona legend was one thing, imagine their surprise when the Champions League trophy was delivered to their doorstep as part of the UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour driven by Nissan LEAF. “I think they found the experience a bit scary at first, they were a bit shy, but they asked some questions and we watched some clips from matches,” he says. “I was proud to do it, to share my stories and the things I’ve been through.” Here, in the second of a series of interviews with five former champions, Abidal discusses what the trophy, the fans and the atmosphere on a Champions League night mean to him.

Tell us what it’s like to lift this trophy…

It’s a magic moment, a special moment. Not many players get the chance to experience it. It’s an intense emotion; when it happens, it’s an explosion of different things, but with time you realise how big an achievement it is and what it means to you.

Éric Abidal lifts the trophy after Barça’s 2011 Wembley win


What does the trophy represent for you?

It’s football history. The history of a club. It’s making history. It’s also what makes a player, more or less – the chance to play in this competition. I’m proud to have played in the competition, and proud of what we did, not only to have won it but especially for the style of play we had at the time. You always have your idols and your reference points that make you dream. But when you’ve had the chance to experience it yourself, you realise how intense the moment is and that you want to experience it in the best way possible, as the best professional, the best competitor. And when you win the trophy, you then become an example for a lot of youngsters and for the next generation.

Is there one memory with the trophy that stands out for you?

It’s not really the moment of lifting the trophy [in 2011]; that was a decision taken by the captain and the staff. Compared to what I’d been through over the previous few months with the illness, the moment Carles Puyol told me was a shock. I told him that it was completely crazy to do that. He was our captain and it was for him to lift the trophy. But it’s at times like that that you realise that in sport, there really is a brotherhood, a respect and teamwork. I gave him all my thanks, and I thanked all the people on the staff – it was that group who gave me the chance to experience this.

Lifting the trophy is a special moment for a player, of course, but what about what it means to the fans…

I don’t have a particular image. After the match we had the chance to see our family and friends and shared a special moment – I think they were unique moments for the fans too, for those in the stadium or watching on TV. But my biggest supporters were always my parents and my family, and so I thought of them a lot. It’s also a stressful time; before you can celebrate the victory for your team, for your club and for your fans, you have to play the game and you have to pay attention throughout the entire match to try and win the trophy. It’s always a collective victory and, when you win, the chance to share it with joy and a smile is always better.

Is the trophy still special for you today?

Of course, because I know how difficult it is to win.


Speaking of supporters, can you remember a match you played in where they really made the difference?

I won’t speak about a particular game, because there were plenty where the supporters helped us surpass ourselves. But a game I attended as a fan was the Barcelona-Paris Saint-Germain match [Barça winning 6-1 to overturn a 4-0 deficit in 2017]. For the last three goals, especially the sixth, the fans really made the difference. Today we see their importance: we have top-level matches in empty stadiums; teams are missing their 12th man. I think the players feel it. I was in the stands [for that Paris game] and I was part of the 12th man pushing the team on and making that dream come true. It was a miracle at the time; I only had a small voice but all the encouragement from the stands, particularly in the last quarter of an hour, made a difference to the team.

The atmosphere must have been incredible…

The big moment for the players was when Neymar scored a free-kick [in the 88th minute]. Then they felt everything was possible – and they felt the power of the supporters who were pushing them and helping them to surpass themselves, to make the necessary effort to make the difference. In the end it paid off, of course, and finished well for Barcelona. It was a unity of the group, a connection between the pitch, the players and the fans. Everyone was going in the same direction for the same objective.

Now everyone has to watch from home. What’s match night like chez Éric Abidal?

Covid has complicated everything. I always have friends inviting me to their house to watch the matches together, but it’s always in small numbers. We try to share moments when we can. A lot depends on the time of the match. We have a bite to eat and some drinks and try to have a good time, hoping for some good football and a good result.

This article is one in a series of five interviews conducted by Champions Journal with former winners Ashley Cole, Cafu, Éric Abidal, Christian Karembeu and Marcel Desailly. They were taking part in the UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour driven by Nissan LEAF, whereby five Nissan LEAF-owning fans enjoyed the surprise delivery of the cup with the big ears. The fans then linked up online with one of the above legends to watch clips and talk about a final they played in – and won. Follow this year's Trophy Tour @nissansports on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

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Best of the best
Éric Abidal’s Champions League Best of the Best…

Moment

The 2011 final at Wembley. The whole thing. I wouldn’t pick a single moment, but everything that happened from before the match to after it.

Goal

Messi’s goal in the 2009 final against Manchester United in Rome. That was a kind of deliverance for us, even if I was suspended. And scoring with a header! As for a match I didn’t play in, I’d say Sergi Roberto’s goal against Paris, the sixth [and decisive goal in the Remontada].

Lionel Messi heads in Barça’s second during the 2009 final

Opponent

Thinking about my position, there were a lot of players who had different characteristics; Robben at Bayern München, Ribéry, Cristiano Ronaldo – both at Real Madrid and Manchester United – David Beckham at the time. I played against Figo, Raúl. They were all different types of players, but I don’t want to pick the best, because I think the best player was on my team.

Team-mate

Messi. By a long way. That’s why he’s won so many Ballon d’Ors. What makes the difference for Messi is how long he’s been at the top. A career like that is never easy. It started at a very high level when he was very, very young, and he’s maintained that level over the years and that’s what makes him a great player. You have to admire the work he’s done and the talent he has, but also the calmness and mental strength he’s shown.

Atmosphere

I have two. Barça-Madrid in 2011 and Celtic-Barcelona. I’d often heard talk about Celtic, the atmosphere and the stadium, the incredible vibe, but it really made an impact. I’d seen the atmosphere in the stands but, on that day, when someone talked to me on the pitch, I couldn’t hear what they were saying. We got a good result [a 3-2 win], but for the first three or four minutes, before the match kicked off, it was like a clap of thunder. It was really something. I think lots of players would talk about that atmosphere because they live football in a completely different way. In some countries where there’s a football culture, the country breathes football. That’s why I picked those two matches; the match in 2011 was quite something for us, but an away game is never easy – especially when you saw Celtic.

Talk to Éric Abidal about the Champions League and the memories come flooding back. Top of the list, Barcelona captain Carles Puyol’s heartfelt gesture to let him lift the trophy in his place in 2011 after the Frenchman’s brave recovery from cancer. Up there too is the joy and release following Lionel Messi’s goal, also against Manchester United, in the 2009 final. Thoughts turn as well to those distant days of fan-filled stadiums and in particular one night at Celtic Park and a 3-2 win against the Scottish champions in the round of 16 in February 2008. Messi scored twice, but it’s the roar of the crowd that sticks most in the memory. “Someone talked to me on the pitch, but I couldn’t hear what they were saying. For the first three or four minutes, before the match kicked off, it was like a clap of thunder.”

Abidal is speaking to me after spending time, via Zoom, watching clips of the 2011 final with a family of awestruck Barcelona fans. If speaking to the Barcelona legend was one thing, imagine their surprise when the Champions League trophy was delivered to their doorstep as part of the UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour driven by Nissan LEAF. “I think they found the experience a bit scary at first, they were a bit shy, but they asked some questions and we watched some clips from matches,” he says. “I was proud to do it, to share my stories and the things I’ve been through.” Here, in the second of a series of interviews with five former champions, Abidal discusses what the trophy, the fans and the atmosphere on a Champions League night mean to him.

Tell us what it’s like to lift this trophy…

It’s a magic moment, a special moment. Not many players get the chance to experience it. It’s an intense emotion; when it happens, it’s an explosion of different things, but with time you realise how big an achievement it is and what it means to you.

Éric Abidal lifts the trophy after Barça’s 2011 Wembley win


What does the trophy represent for you?

It’s football history. The history of a club. It’s making history. It’s also what makes a player, more or less – the chance to play in this competition. I’m proud to have played in the competition, and proud of what we did, not only to have won it but especially for the style of play we had at the time. You always have your idols and your reference points that make you dream. But when you’ve had the chance to experience it yourself, you realise how intense the moment is and that you want to experience it in the best way possible, as the best professional, the best competitor. And when you win the trophy, you then become an example for a lot of youngsters and for the next generation.

Is there one memory with the trophy that stands out for you?

It’s not really the moment of lifting the trophy [in 2011]; that was a decision taken by the captain and the staff. Compared to what I’d been through over the previous few months with the illness, the moment Carles Puyol told me was a shock. I told him that it was completely crazy to do that. He was our captain and it was for him to lift the trophy. But it’s at times like that that you realise that in sport, there really is a brotherhood, a respect and teamwork. I gave him all my thanks, and I thanked all the people on the staff – it was that group who gave me the chance to experience this.

Lifting the trophy is a special moment for a player, of course, but what about what it means to the fans…

I don’t have a particular image. After the match we had the chance to see our family and friends and shared a special moment – I think they were unique moments for the fans too, for those in the stadium or watching on TV. But my biggest supporters were always my parents and my family, and so I thought of them a lot. It’s also a stressful time; before you can celebrate the victory for your team, for your club and for your fans, you have to play the game and you have to pay attention throughout the entire match to try and win the trophy. It’s always a collective victory and, when you win, the chance to share it with joy and a smile is always better.

Is the trophy still special for you today?

Of course, because I know how difficult it is to win.


Speaking of supporters, can you remember a match you played in where they really made the difference?

I won’t speak about a particular game, because there were plenty where the supporters helped us surpass ourselves. But a game I attended as a fan was the Barcelona-Paris Saint-Germain match [Barça winning 6-1 to overturn a 4-0 deficit in 2017]. For the last three goals, especially the sixth, the fans really made the difference. Today we see their importance: we have top-level matches in empty stadiums; teams are missing their 12th man. I think the players feel it. I was in the stands [for that Paris game] and I was part of the 12th man pushing the team on and making that dream come true. It was a miracle at the time; I only had a small voice but all the encouragement from the stands, particularly in the last quarter of an hour, made a difference to the team.

The atmosphere must have been incredible…

The big moment for the players was when Neymar scored a free-kick [in the 88th minute]. Then they felt everything was possible – and they felt the power of the supporters who were pushing them and helping them to surpass themselves, to make the necessary effort to make the difference. In the end it paid off, of course, and finished well for Barcelona. It was a unity of the group, a connection between the pitch, the players and the fans. Everyone was going in the same direction for the same objective.

Now everyone has to watch from home. What’s match night like chez Éric Abidal?

Covid has complicated everything. I always have friends inviting me to their house to watch the matches together, but it’s always in small numbers. We try to share moments when we can. A lot depends on the time of the match. We have a bite to eat and some drinks and try to have a good time, hoping for some good football and a good result.

This article is one in a series of five interviews conducted by Champions Journal with former winners Ashley Cole, Cafu, Éric Abidal, Christian Karembeu and Marcel Desailly. They were taking part in the UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour driven by Nissan LEAF, whereby five Nissan LEAF-owning fans enjoyed the surprise delivery of the cup with the big ears. The fans then linked up online with one of the above legends to watch clips and talk about a final they played in – and won. Follow this year's Trophy Tour @nissansports on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Best of the best
Éric Abidal: Celtic Park was as loud as thunder

Moment

The 2011 final at Wembley. The whole thing. I wouldn’t pick a single moment, but everything that happened from before the match to after it.

Goal

Messi’s goal in the 2009 final against Manchester United in Rome. That was a kind of deliverance for us, even if I was suspended. And scoring with a header! As for a match I didn’t play in, I’d say Sergi Roberto’s goal against Paris, the sixth [and decisive goal in the Remontada].

Lionel Messi heads in Barça’s second during the 2009 final

Opponent

Thinking about my position, there were a lot of players who had different characteristics; Robben at Bayern München, Ribéry, Cristiano Ronaldo – both at Real Madrid and Manchester United – David Beckham at the time. I played against Figo, Raúl. They were all different types of players, but I don’t want to pick the best, because I think the best player was on my team.

Team-mate

Messi. By a long way. That’s why he’s won so many Ballon d’Ors. What makes the difference for Messi is how long he’s been at the top. A career like that is never easy. It started at a very high level when he was very, very young, and he’s maintained that level over the years and that’s what makes him a great player. You have to admire the work he’s done and the talent he has, but also the calmness and mental strength he’s shown.

Atmosphere

I have two. Barça-Madrid in 2011 and Celtic-Barcelona. I’d often heard talk about Celtic, the atmosphere and the stadium, the incredible vibe, but it really made an impact. I’d seen the atmosphere in the stands but, on that day, when someone talked to me on the pitch, I couldn’t hear what they were saying. We got a good result [a 3-2 win], but for the first three or four minutes, before the match kicked off, it was like a clap of thunder. It was really something. I think lots of players would talk about that atmosphere because they live football in a completely different way. In some countries where there’s a football culture, the country breathes football. That’s why I picked those two matches; the match in 2011 was quite something for us, but an away game is never easy – especially when you saw Celtic.

Nissan Trophy Tour 2020

Éric Abidal: Celtic Park was as loud as thunder

In this series of interviews, five champions talk fans, glory and getting their hands on club football’s biggest prize

INTERVIEW Michael Harrold

Talk to Éric Abidal about the Champions League and the memories come flooding back. Top of the list, Barcelona captain Carles Puyol’s heartfelt gesture to let him lift the trophy in his place in 2011 after the Frenchman’s brave recovery from cancer. Up there too is the joy and release following Lionel Messi’s goal, also against Manchester United, in the 2009 final. Thoughts turn as well to those distant days of fan-filled stadiums and in particular one night at Celtic Park and a 3-2 win against the Scottish champions in the round of 16 in February 2008. Messi scored twice, but it’s the roar of the crowd that sticks most in the memory. “Someone talked to me on the pitch, but I couldn’t hear what they were saying. For the first three or four minutes, before the match kicked off, it was like a clap of thunder.”

Abidal is speaking to me after spending time, via Zoom, watching clips of the 2011 final with a family of awestruck Barcelona fans. If speaking to the Barcelona legend was one thing, imagine their surprise when the Champions League trophy was delivered to their doorstep as part of the UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour driven by Nissan LEAF. “I think they found the experience a bit scary at first, they were a bit shy, but they asked some questions and we watched some clips from matches,” he says. “I was proud to do it, to share my stories and the things I’ve been through.” Here, in the second of a series of interviews with five former champions, Abidal discusses what the trophy, the fans and the atmosphere on a Champions League night mean to him.

Tell us what it’s like to lift this trophy…

It’s a magic moment, a special moment. Not many players get the chance to experience it. It’s an intense emotion; when it happens, it’s an explosion of different things, but with time you realise how big an achievement it is and what it means to you.

Éric Abidal lifts the trophy after Barça’s 2011 Wembley win


What does the trophy represent for you?

It’s football history. The history of a club. It’s making history. It’s also what makes a player, more or less – the chance to play in this competition. I’m proud to have played in the competition, and proud of what we did, not only to have won it but especially for the style of play we had at the time. You always have your idols and your reference points that make you dream. But when you’ve had the chance to experience it yourself, you realise how intense the moment is and that you want to experience it in the best way possible, as the best professional, the best competitor. And when you win the trophy, you then become an example for a lot of youngsters and for the next generation.

Is there one memory with the trophy that stands out for you?

It’s not really the moment of lifting the trophy [in 2011]; that was a decision taken by the captain and the staff. Compared to what I’d been through over the previous few months with the illness, the moment Carles Puyol told me was a shock. I told him that it was completely crazy to do that. He was our captain and it was for him to lift the trophy. But it’s at times like that that you realise that in sport, there really is a brotherhood, a respect and teamwork. I gave him all my thanks, and I thanked all the people on the staff – it was that group who gave me the chance to experience this.

Lifting the trophy is a special moment for a player, of course, but what about what it means to the fans…

I don’t have a particular image. After the match we had the chance to see our family and friends and shared a special moment – I think they were unique moments for the fans too, for those in the stadium or watching on TV. But my biggest supporters were always my parents and my family, and so I thought of them a lot. It’s also a stressful time; before you can celebrate the victory for your team, for your club and for your fans, you have to play the game and you have to pay attention throughout the entire match to try and win the trophy. It’s always a collective victory and, when you win, the chance to share it with joy and a smile is always better.

Is the trophy still special for you today?

Of course, because I know how difficult it is to win.


Speaking of supporters, can you remember a match you played in where they really made the difference?

I won’t speak about a particular game, because there were plenty where the supporters helped us surpass ourselves. But a game I attended as a fan was the Barcelona-Paris Saint-Germain match [Barça winning 6-1 to overturn a 4-0 deficit in 2017]. For the last three goals, especially the sixth, the fans really made the difference. Today we see their importance: we have top-level matches in empty stadiums; teams are missing their 12th man. I think the players feel it. I was in the stands [for that Paris game] and I was part of the 12th man pushing the team on and making that dream come true. It was a miracle at the time; I only had a small voice but all the encouragement from the stands, particularly in the last quarter of an hour, made a difference to the team.

The atmosphere must have been incredible…

The big moment for the players was when Neymar scored a free-kick [in the 88th minute]. Then they felt everything was possible – and they felt the power of the supporters who were pushing them and helping them to surpass themselves, to make the necessary effort to make the difference. In the end it paid off, of course, and finished well for Barcelona. It was a unity of the group, a connection between the pitch, the players and the fans. Everyone was going in the same direction for the same objective.

Now everyone has to watch from home. What’s match night like chez Éric Abidal?

Covid has complicated everything. I always have friends inviting me to their house to watch the matches together, but it’s always in small numbers. We try to share moments when we can. A lot depends on the time of the match. We have a bite to eat and some drinks and try to have a good time, hoping for some good football and a good result.

This article is one in a series of five interviews conducted by Champions Journal with former winners Ashley Cole, Cafu, Éric Abidal, Christian Karembeu and Marcel Desailly. They were taking part in the UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour driven by Nissan LEAF, whereby five Nissan LEAF-owning fans enjoyed the surprise delivery of the cup with the big ears. The fans then linked up online with one of the above legends to watch clips and talk about a final they played in – and won. Follow this year's Trophy Tour @nissansports on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Best of the best
Penalty Pedigree

Etiam erat velit scelerisque in dictum non. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at. Scelerisque felis imperdiet proin fermentum leo. Nibh tortor id aliquet lectus proin nibh nisl. Nulla at volutpat diam ut venenatis. At urna condimentum mattis pellentesque id nibh tortor id aliquet. Leo a diam sollicitudin tempor id eu nisl nunc mi. Dui vivamus arcu felis bibendum ut. Pharetra convallis posuere morbi leo urna molestie. Adipiscing at in tellus integer feugiat scelerisque. In arcu cursus euismod quis. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at lectus urna duis. Facilisi nullam vehicula ipsum a arcu cursus. At tempor commodo ullamcorper a lacus vestibulum sed arcu non. Ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit pellentesque habitant. Vitae sapien pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus. Eget nullam non nisi est sit amet facilisis. Ipsum consequat nisl vel pretium lectus quam. Elit sed vulputate mi sit amet mauris commodo quis. Pretium fusce id velit ut tortor pretium viverra suspendisse potenti.

Talk to Éric Abidal about the Champions League and the memories come flooding back. Top of the list, Barcelona captain Carles Puyol’s heartfelt gesture to let him lift the trophy in his place in 2011 after the Frenchman’s brave recovery from cancer. Up there too is the joy and release following Lionel Messi’s goal, also against Manchester United, in the 2009 final. Thoughts turn as well to those distant days of fan-filled stadiums and in particular one night at Celtic Park and a 3-2 win against the Scottish champions in the round of 16 in February 2008. Messi scored twice, but it’s the roar of the crowd that sticks most in the memory. “Someone talked to me on the pitch, but I couldn’t hear what they were saying. For the first three or four minutes, before the match kicked off, it was like a clap of thunder.”

Abidal is speaking to me after spending time, via Zoom, watching clips of the 2011 final with a family of awestruck Barcelona fans. If speaking to the Barcelona legend was one thing, imagine their surprise when the Champions League trophy was delivered to their doorstep as part of the UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour driven by Nissan LEAF. “I think they found the experience a bit scary at first, they were a bit shy, but they asked some questions and we watched some clips from matches,” he says. “I was proud to do it, to share my stories and the things I’ve been through.” Here, in the second of a series of interviews with five former champions, Abidal discusses what the trophy, the fans and the atmosphere on a Champions League night mean to him.

Tell us what it’s like to lift this trophy…

It’s a magic moment, a special moment. Not many players get the chance to experience it. It’s an intense emotion; when it happens, it’s an explosion of different things, but with time you realise how big an achievement it is and what it means to you.

Éric Abidal lifts the trophy after Barça’s 2011 Wembley win


What does the trophy represent for you?

It’s football history. The history of a club. It’s making history. It’s also what makes a player, more or less – the chance to play in this competition. I’m proud to have played in the competition, and proud of what we did, not only to have won it but especially for the style of play we had at the time. You always have your idols and your reference points that make you dream. But when you’ve had the chance to experience it yourself, you realise how intense the moment is and that you want to experience it in the best way possible, as the best professional, the best competitor. And when you win the trophy, you then become an example for a lot of youngsters and for the next generation.

Is there one memory with the trophy that stands out for you?

It’s not really the moment of lifting the trophy [in 2011]; that was a decision taken by the captain and the staff. Compared to what I’d been through over the previous few months with the illness, the moment Carles Puyol told me was a shock. I told him that it was completely crazy to do that. He was our captain and it was for him to lift the trophy. But it’s at times like that that you realise that in sport, there really is a brotherhood, a respect and teamwork. I gave him all my thanks, and I thanked all the people on the staff – it was that group who gave me the chance to experience this.

Lifting the trophy is a special moment for a player, of course, but what about what it means to the fans…

I don’t have a particular image. After the match we had the chance to see our family and friends and shared a special moment – I think they were unique moments for the fans too, for those in the stadium or watching on TV. But my biggest supporters were always my parents and my family, and so I thought of them a lot. It’s also a stressful time; before you can celebrate the victory for your team, for your club and for your fans, you have to play the game and you have to pay attention throughout the entire match to try and win the trophy. It’s always a collective victory and, when you win, the chance to share it with joy and a smile is always better.

Is the trophy still special for you today?

Of course, because I know how difficult it is to win.


Speaking of supporters, can you remember a match you played in where they really made the difference?

I won’t speak about a particular game, because there were plenty where the supporters helped us surpass ourselves. But a game I attended as a fan was the Barcelona-Paris Saint-Germain match [Barça winning 6-1 to overturn a 4-0 deficit in 2017]. For the last three goals, especially the sixth, the fans really made the difference. Today we see their importance: we have top-level matches in empty stadiums; teams are missing their 12th man. I think the players feel it. I was in the stands [for that Paris game] and I was part of the 12th man pushing the team on and making that dream come true. It was a miracle at the time; I only had a small voice but all the encouragement from the stands, particularly in the last quarter of an hour, made a difference to the team.

The atmosphere must have been incredible…

The big moment for the players was when Neymar scored a free-kick [in the 88th minute]. Then they felt everything was possible – and they felt the power of the supporters who were pushing them and helping them to surpass themselves, to make the necessary effort to make the difference. In the end it paid off, of course, and finished well for Barcelona. It was a unity of the group, a connection between the pitch, the players and the fans. Everyone was going in the same direction for the same objective.

Now everyone has to watch from home. What’s match night like chez Éric Abidal?

Covid has complicated everything. I always have friends inviting me to their house to watch the matches together, but it’s always in small numbers. We try to share moments when we can. A lot depends on the time of the match. We have a bite to eat and some drinks and try to have a good time, hoping for some good football and a good result.

This article is one in a series of five interviews conducted by Champions Journal with former winners Ashley Cole, Cafu, Éric Abidal, Christian Karembeu and Marcel Desailly. They were taking part in the UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour driven by Nissan LEAF, whereby five Nissan LEAF-owning fans enjoyed the surprise delivery of the cup with the big ears. The fans then linked up online with one of the above legends to watch clips and talk about a final they played in – and won. Follow this year's Trophy Tour @nissansports on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

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Best of the best
Éric Abidal’s Champions League Best of the Best…

Moment

The 2011 final at Wembley. The whole thing. I wouldn’t pick a single moment, but everything that happened from before the match to after it.

Goal

Messi’s goal in the 2009 final against Manchester United in Rome. That was a kind of deliverance for us, even if I was suspended. And scoring with a header! As for a match I didn’t play in, I’d say Sergi Roberto’s goal against Paris, the sixth [and decisive goal in the Remontada].

Lionel Messi heads in Barça’s second during the 2009 final

Opponent

Thinking about my position, there were a lot of players who had different characteristics; Robben at Bayern München, Ribéry, Cristiano Ronaldo – both at Real Madrid and Manchester United – David Beckham at the time. I played against Figo, Raúl. They were all different types of players, but I don’t want to pick the best, because I think the best player was on my team.

Team-mate

Messi. By a long way. That’s why he’s won so many Ballon d’Ors. What makes the difference for Messi is how long he’s been at the top. A career like that is never easy. It started at a very high level when he was very, very young, and he’s maintained that level over the years and that’s what makes him a great player. You have to admire the work he’s done and the talent he has, but also the calmness and mental strength he’s shown.

Atmosphere

I have two. Barça-Madrid in 2011 and Celtic-Barcelona. I’d often heard talk about Celtic, the atmosphere and the stadium, the incredible vibe, but it really made an impact. I’d seen the atmosphere in the stands but, on that day, when someone talked to me on the pitch, I couldn’t hear what they were saying. We got a good result [a 3-2 win], but for the first three or four minutes, before the match kicked off, it was like a clap of thunder. It was really something. I think lots of players would talk about that atmosphere because they live football in a completely different way. In some countries where there’s a football culture, the country breathes football. That’s why I picked those two matches; the match in 2011 was quite something for us, but an away game is never easy – especially when you saw Celtic.

Talk to Éric Abidal about the Champions League and the memories come flooding back. Top of the list, Barcelona captain Carles Puyol’s heartfelt gesture to let him lift the trophy in his place in 2011 after the Frenchman’s brave recovery from cancer. Up there too is the joy and release following Lionel Messi’s goal, also against Manchester United, in the 2009 final. Thoughts turn as well to those distant days of fan-filled stadiums and in particular one night at Celtic Park and a 3-2 win against the Scottish champions in the round of 16 in February 2008. Messi scored twice, but it’s the roar of the crowd that sticks most in the memory. “Someone talked to me on the pitch, but I couldn’t hear what they were saying. For the first three or four minutes, before the match kicked off, it was like a clap of thunder.”

Abidal is speaking to me after spending time, via Zoom, watching clips of the 2011 final with a family of awestruck Barcelona fans. If speaking to the Barcelona legend was one thing, imagine their surprise when the Champions League trophy was delivered to their doorstep as part of the UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour driven by Nissan LEAF. “I think they found the experience a bit scary at first, they were a bit shy, but they asked some questions and we watched some clips from matches,” he says. “I was proud to do it, to share my stories and the things I’ve been through.” Here, in the second of a series of interviews with five former champions, Abidal discusses what the trophy, the fans and the atmosphere on a Champions League night mean to him.

Tell us what it’s like to lift this trophy…

It’s a magic moment, a special moment. Not many players get the chance to experience it. It’s an intense emotion; when it happens, it’s an explosion of different things, but with time you realise how big an achievement it is and what it means to you.

Éric Abidal lifts the trophy after Barça’s 2011 Wembley win


What does the trophy represent for you?

It’s football history. The history of a club. It’s making history. It’s also what makes a player, more or less – the chance to play in this competition. I’m proud to have played in the competition, and proud of what we did, not only to have won it but especially for the style of play we had at the time. You always have your idols and your reference points that make you dream. But when you’ve had the chance to experience it yourself, you realise how intense the moment is and that you want to experience it in the best way possible, as the best professional, the best competitor. And when you win the trophy, you then become an example for a lot of youngsters and for the next generation.

Is there one memory with the trophy that stands out for you?

It’s not really the moment of lifting the trophy [in 2011]; that was a decision taken by the captain and the staff. Compared to what I’d been through over the previous few months with the illness, the moment Carles Puyol told me was a shock. I told him that it was completely crazy to do that. He was our captain and it was for him to lift the trophy. But it’s at times like that that you realise that in sport, there really is a brotherhood, a respect and teamwork. I gave him all my thanks, and I thanked all the people on the staff – it was that group who gave me the chance to experience this.

Lifting the trophy is a special moment for a player, of course, but what about what it means to the fans…

I don’t have a particular image. After the match we had the chance to see our family and friends and shared a special moment – I think they were unique moments for the fans too, for those in the stadium or watching on TV. But my biggest supporters were always my parents and my family, and so I thought of them a lot. It’s also a stressful time; before you can celebrate the victory for your team, for your club and for your fans, you have to play the game and you have to pay attention throughout the entire match to try and win the trophy. It’s always a collective victory and, when you win, the chance to share it with joy and a smile is always better.

Is the trophy still special for you today?

Of course, because I know how difficult it is to win.


Speaking of supporters, can you remember a match you played in where they really made the difference?

I won’t speak about a particular game, because there were plenty where the supporters helped us surpass ourselves. But a game I attended as a fan was the Barcelona-Paris Saint-Germain match [Barça winning 6-1 to overturn a 4-0 deficit in 2017]. For the last three goals, especially the sixth, the fans really made the difference. Today we see their importance: we have top-level matches in empty stadiums; teams are missing their 12th man. I think the players feel it. I was in the stands [for that Paris game] and I was part of the 12th man pushing the team on and making that dream come true. It was a miracle at the time; I only had a small voice but all the encouragement from the stands, particularly in the last quarter of an hour, made a difference to the team.

The atmosphere must have been incredible…

The big moment for the players was when Neymar scored a free-kick [in the 88th minute]. Then they felt everything was possible – and they felt the power of the supporters who were pushing them and helping them to surpass themselves, to make the necessary effort to make the difference. In the end it paid off, of course, and finished well for Barcelona. It was a unity of the group, a connection between the pitch, the players and the fans. Everyone was going in the same direction for the same objective.

Now everyone has to watch from home. What’s match night like chez Éric Abidal?

Covid has complicated everything. I always have friends inviting me to their house to watch the matches together, but it’s always in small numbers. We try to share moments when we can. A lot depends on the time of the match. We have a bite to eat and some drinks and try to have a good time, hoping for some good football and a good result.

This article is one in a series of five interviews conducted by Champions Journal with former winners Ashley Cole, Cafu, Éric Abidal, Christian Karembeu and Marcel Desailly. They were taking part in the UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour driven by Nissan LEAF, whereby five Nissan LEAF-owning fans enjoyed the surprise delivery of the cup with the big ears. The fans then linked up online with one of the above legends to watch clips and talk about a final they played in – and won. Follow this year's Trophy Tour @nissansports on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Best of the best
Penalty Pedigree

Etiam erat velit scelerisque in dictum non. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at. Scelerisque felis imperdiet proin fermentum leo. Nibh tortor id aliquet lectus proin nibh nisl. Nulla at volutpat diam ut venenatis. At urna condimentum mattis pellentesque id nibh tortor id aliquet. Leo a diam sollicitudin tempor id eu nisl nunc mi. Dui vivamus arcu felis bibendum ut. Pharetra convallis posuere morbi leo urna molestie. Adipiscing at in tellus integer feugiat scelerisque. In arcu cursus euismod quis. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at lectus urna duis. Facilisi nullam vehicula ipsum a arcu cursus. At tempor commodo ullamcorper a lacus vestibulum sed arcu non. Ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit pellentesque habitant. Vitae sapien pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus. Eget nullam non nisi est sit amet facilisis. Ipsum consequat nisl vel pretium lectus quam. Elit sed vulputate mi sit amet mauris commodo quis. Pretium fusce id velit ut tortor pretium viverra suspendisse potenti.

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