(CNN) -- Barcelona may be licking their wounds after a 2-0 European Champions League defeat to AC Milan but on Thursday they received a boost that star midfielder Xavi described as "the best news of the year."
Eric Abidal, who has spent nearly a year out of the game after having a liver transplant, has been declared fit enough to rejoin Barca's first team squad.
It is positive news for Barcelona whose manager Tito Vilanova is currently in New York receiving treatment for throat cancer.
The French defender last played for Barca on February 26 last year and underwent surgery in April. He also had a tumor removed in March 2011.
Abidal spent two months on a specific training program designed by club physio Emili Ricart before training with the rest of the squad from the middle of December.
But now he is back in contention for a first team place.
A statement on Barca's official website read: "Following training Eric Abidal received the wonderful news that he is in good enough condition to play for the first team in what remains of the current season."
The club's players were delighted the 33-year-old had completed his recovery. Xavi, who has spent his entire career at the Spanish giants told the website: "It's the best news of the year.
"It's not a great day coming back after a 2-0 defeat, but seeing Abidal, how he trains and gives it everything and that he's now able to return to playing is a source of motivation. It's the best news we could have had."
Club captain Carles Puyol took to social networking site Twitter to say: "Today is the best news for Barcelonistas and football. Abidal has already been discharged. With him we are stronger."
Barca suffered just their second defeat in 22 matches when they went down 2-0 to Milan in the first leg at the San Siro.
The club are striving for their fifth title in European football's most prestigious competition. The second leg at the Nou Camp is on March 12.