A tearful Eric Abidal has called an end to his six-year Barcelona playing career, less than two months after returning to action from a liver transplant.
"I am going, but I am sure I will be back in another capacity," the French defender told a news conference at the club, which said it had offered him a role running the club's training schools.
"I would have liked to continue playing for Barça, but the clubs sees things differently and I have to respect that," he said, with tears in his eyes.
"It's a very difficult day for me," he added via Barcelona's official Twitter account. "I have played for Barca for six years and it's been the biggest experience of my life.
"I understand and respect the decision of the club. I'm going, but I'll be sure to return. I want to thank all the fans of the club who have supported me and have been looking after me. The team is my second family. We have gone through a lot together and I'll remember this forever."
Abidal, 33, who made a remarkable recovery from last year's liver transplant to return to first-team action last month, is out of contract at the end of the season. He had said he hoped to continue playing for another couple of years. "I had two aims: firstly to fight for the sake of my daughters and see them grow up, and secondly to start playing again," he said of his recovery.
Abidal "has become a very special person for all of us", said the club's president Sandro Rosell, sitting alongside the player as Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and other stars of the Barcelona squad looked on. "He is an example of how to overcome difficulties. He will go down in our history for the way he managed to come back as a player," Rosell said.
He added that Abidal was welcome to return to Barça "whenever he wants to come back", even if he left first to play for another side. "We are not saying goodbye," Rosell said. "When he stops being a player, the doors are open for him to be a technical director of our schools at international level."