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The France defender believes he and his coach have a mutual understanding following their respective battles with ill health, and says he tries to learn from his team-mates

Barcelona's Eric Abidal has revealed that his efforts to return to football are motivated by thoughts of boss Tito Vilanova.

The France defender, who has been sidelined for eight months following liver transplant surgery, has confessed he feels a particular empathy with the 44-year-old coach, who is currently recovering from an operation after a cancer relapse.

Speaking on a special TV programme entitled 'The Great Marathon of Abidal', broadcast on TV3, he said: "Tito and I have experienced similar things, and we think differently to others. We know what each one of us is thinking, without ever having to say it. I make the effort for me, and also for him."

Abidal, who recently returned to training at Camp Nou, added that his main objective while he continued to regain fitness was to begin to work with a football again.

"I really wanted to start with the ball again," he added. "I knew once I touched it, the road to recovery would become a bit shorter.

"You always have to try. If you don't, you'll never know. This is why I wanted to train - to know if I could do it."

The 33-year-old went on to describe the different personalities of his team-mates, and claimed he tries to better himself by learning from each of them.

"Here, we all are stars," he said. "Leo [Messi] is the most humble, [Jose] Pinto smiles, [Victor] Valdes jokes, [Carles] Puyol gives us courage, Xavi's jesting, Andres [Iniesta's] behaviour ... everyone has something to teach the rest of the squad. I try to learn something every day to become a better person."

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