Santi Cazorla is undergoing pre-season training with Villarreal and the Arsenal fan favourite looks well on his way to an unlikely playing return.
Cazorla has not played a competitive game since he was injured against Ludogorets in October 2016.
Most believed he had little chance of ever returning to the top level after a host of surgeries followed what should have been a straightforward Achilles operation.
Released by Arsenal at the end of his contract this summer, the Spaniard is determined to win himself a contract with Villarreal.
The diminutive playmaker knows he still has some way to go before he’s actually selected in a starting lineup, or even used as a sub, but all the signs are encouraging at this point that the Santi comeback is still on.
A report from Spain claims that Cazorla has been working alone for the last few weeks with his ‘enthusiasm’ at it’s ‘maximum’ which is just standard for Santi.
At the weekend, he underwent a battery of tests to make sure he was ready to take part in first-team training.
On Monday, he joined in with the rest of the squad.
“I will not deceive anyone, if I see that I can not give up, I leave it,” Cazorla told AS.
Although Google translate has done its thing with Cazorla’s quote, the intention is quite clear – if he can’t make it through pre-season training, he will call it a day.
Remarkable to get this far
To be fair to the Spaniard, I don’t think there is anyone on the planet who believed he could make it this far after what he went through trying to correct a troublesome Achilles problem.
Unfortunately, post-surgical complications involving a wound that would not heal, left Cazorla facing the possibility of losing his foot and another nine surgeries to correct the problem.
Losing a chunk of his Achilles, we spoke to a leading sports surgeon about Cazorla’s chances of returning to the top level. He was not optimistic.
“Given the multiple surgeries required, the significance of the subsequent injury and the level at which he’s is required to perform at, it’s hard not to be pessimistic about his chances of returning to an elite level of professional sport,” said Mr James Walsh, who was at pains to stress he has not treated Cazorla and was merely commenting on the information made publicly available.
“A recent study from the American Journal of Sports Medicine quoted a 60% chance of return to professional sport following repair and these would have been far less significant injuries. In a basketball setting, athletes are far less likely to be accidentally kicked in the calf during a game.
“The loss of this much Achilles tendon and the likely reconstruction required would make it unlikely – though of course not impossible – that a player would be able to return to elite level football.”
He added: “Overall, this is a highly unusual and unfortunate complication and it shows that despite access to the best surgical and rehabilitation care, along with a compliant, highly motivated and physically fit patient, rare and severe complications can occur.
“The odds would seem to be against him, but never say never…”
Never say never indeed…