Arsene Wenger hasn’t ruled out Santi Cazorla signing a new contract, but the midfielder must prove his fitness first.

Cazorla is fighting hard to return to first team action after his 10th operation on an Achilles problem.

Amid all his struggles, the fact that he’s out of contract in the summer has slipped under the radar.

It’s a situation that’s unlikely to be sorted this season, as Wenger doesn’t expect the midfielder to return.

“I sent him a message two weeks ago and wished him well, hoping to see him soon,” Wenger said, as reported by
“He has not come back yet because he has just had surgery. The medical people know much better than I do whether he will play again in 2018 before the end of the season. Before the end of the season will be hard for him.”

Cazorla himself recently said that he could be back playing “next year”, which is a typically optimistic view.

By that point, it’s entirely possible that he’ll be out of contract.

Wenger seems open to Cazorla extending, but says he must prove his fitness first.

“That (a new deal) depends on his medical availability at the top level. We have to assess that until the end of the season – if Santi is fit and available to play, then yes. Of course, we have to see that,” he said.

“That is why I tell you it is a complicated situation because first of all we love him, second of all he is a great football player but the third situation is that you need to be healthy today to play at the intensity that is needed in the Premier League. So we have to see if he can absorb that or not.”

Arsenal do not have to extend Cazorla’s contract straight away.

He could simply be a free agent until he’s fit again, before rejoining the club at another time, just as Zlatan Ibrahimovic did at Manchester United.

That is, of course, if Cazorla ever plays again.

The extent of his injury is such that playing at the top level again would be an incredible achievement.

If Cazorla’s “next year” target is anything to go by, he will have been out for over two years.

For a player in his 30s, missing eight centremetres of his Achilles tendon, that will be very difficult to come back from.