From being told that he’d be lucky to even play a game of football in his garden with his children to coming back and showing the world that he still has a few tricks up his sleeve, Santi Cazorla – Spanish international and former Arsenal midfielder – has had a remarkable journey.
His troubles started in late 2013 during an international friendly between Spain and Chile as Cazorla played the whole match with a cracked bone after suffering a knock on his ankle early on in the game.
This injury would go on to plague him for a few more years as he continued to play through the pain until Arsenal’s UEFA Champions League tie with Ludogorets Razgrad on 20 Oct 2016 where he was substituted in the 57th minute giving way to Mohamed Elneny.
In December 2016 Cazorla underwent his first surgery on the damaged ankle in Sweden but an infection that he picked up during the operation complicated his recovery.
A few more surgeries ensued and each time it took a toll on his body. His medical team told him to forget about playing football again. But Cazorla wasn’t one to give up on the game he loved so easily.
He decided to shift to Spain where he met Dr Mikel Sanchez who was well known for having helped the likes of Rafael Nadal and Andres Iniesta recover from injuries.
Cazorla’s case was complicated and Dr Sanchez had never seen anything like that before. He realised that the Achilles tendon at the back of Cazorla’s right foot was heavily infected, so much so that he was at the risk of losing his leg.
By the time Cazorla was finished with his painful visits to the operation theatre in 2017, he had undergone 10 operations and one skin-graft procedure when flesh from his left forearm was taken to use on his right ankle, a tattoo of his daughter’s name – India – was cut into half.
His road to recovery was only beginning now. He decided to move to Salamanca for the rest of his recovery period while his family stayed in London. It wasn’t an easy path to tread but Cazorla was determined to be back on the field. His days would consist of Pilates, swimming sessions and gruelling physical workouts that seemed to go on forever.
He made progress and in August 2017, as his leg started to become stronger he got to do the first bit of running in years. But as fate would have it, in November 2017 his leg broke down again.
He was back to square one and more surgery was required to treat the new problem. This setback, however, could not rattle Cazorla’s will and determination to make a comeback.
And all the hard work paid off when in July 2018 he played a friendly against Hercules, after almost 600 days of being sidelined. He was back on the pitch and ready to shine once again.
Villarreal decided to give Cazorla another chance at top-flight football as he signed for them on a one-year contract with an option to extend one more year.
He proved to be so instrumental for them that his performance with the Yellow Submarines even earned him a call-up to the Spanish National team.
In July 2020, Cazorla announced that he will be joining Al Sadd SC of Qatar Stars League, managed by his compatriot and former National teammate Xavi.
Since then he has become an important part of the team and his recent wonder winner against rivals Al Arabi in the 92nd minute has fans of football singing his praise all over again.
Santi Cazorla 92min winner in a derby win for Al Sadd today. 😍 pic.twitter.com/b6Xb5jkNuH— Osman 🎗 (@OsmanZtheGooner) February 22, 2021
This match-winning display only goes on to show that he has no plans of hanging his boots in the near future and that he still has a lot to offer to the game and fans all around the world and make up for the lost years.