Are you a legend

Villarreal star in portrait: "Santi Cazorla, you are a legend"

Football has all kinds of stories to offer. Some leave you amazed, others let you cheer - or they just give you goose bumps. The story of Santi Cazorla makes you do all of this. The Spaniard, currently 35 years old, is now playing again for his youth club Villarreal and is causing a sensation there with strong performances. An achievement that does not seem particularly exceptional at first glance. But if you look at the Spaniard's career and history of suffering, then as a football fan your heart should be warm.

Cazorla started his career as a footballer at Real Oviedo, then moved to Villarreal in 2012. He played for the "Yellow U-Boat" from 2002 to 2011, with a short stop at Recreativo Huelva in the 2006/07 season. In 2008 he was appointed to the national team for the first time and with "La Furia Roja" he was European champion this year. The next European Championship followed in 2012, and the Spaniard's career had long since picked up speed. In 2012 he ventured out of Spain and went to Arsenal FC on the island. He was immediately a solid support for the Gunners, made 106 league games (23 goals) in his first three seasons and played 20 times in the main round of the Champions League.

Serious injury in 2013

In 2013, Cazorla injured his right ankle in a test match with Spain against Chile in the 20th minute, but could not be replaced and played through. A decision that, in retrospect, had a major impact on the offensive man's career. Several injuries to the foot, ankle and knee followed. From then on, the Spaniard had to undergo a total of ten operations and experienced countless setbacks. "I'm a puzzle," he said many years later at the Guardian.

2016 last game for a long time

At first Cazorla fought his way back again and again, often playing with pain. Of course, this could not be a permanent solution. On October 19, Arsenal won the Champions League 6-0 against Ludogorez Razgrad, Cazorla was replaced in the 57th minute. It should have been his last soccer game for a long time. "Halftime killed me because everything went cold. I went into the second half battered and the pain got worse and worse. The following night I cried and screamed, it got too much. I had to stop. Then the problems came started ", says the Spaniard.

From England to Spain for treatment

A complicated injury developed in his right leg. A wound didn't really want to heal, so there was inflammation. "A theater of operations began and then the wound was open. It became infected, the bacteria ate and ate. It was never found out what kind of bacteria it was," says Cazorla, who at that time had little hope of a continuation of his career: "They told me: Don't worry about playing football, just concentrate on getting a normal life back and being able to play ball with your children. But I didn't take that too seriously because then I would decided to go to Spain where they told me other things. "

Tendon eaten, bone damaged

Cazorla left his family in London, went to Vitoria and received treatment in the hospital in Salamanca. "In London they decided that I could never play again. In Spain they said: Santi, it looks bad, but we will fight," said the Spaniard with renewed courage for the continuation of his career. His foot was operated on again and the doctors had to see how much of the Achilles tendon the bacteria had eaten. Another problem became clear when I looked in the leg. "They didn't know how much of the tendon was damaged at first. They told me to open my foot - and when they did that, they saw that I lost four inches of the tendon. I was lucky, they said. it could have been more. When the tendon was repaired, they saw the poor condition of the bone. It was like plasticine, that was very dangerous, "reports the professional, who was not just about to end his career also ran the risk of losing his right leg.

There were nights when I said to my family: It's over. Tomorrow I'll tell the physio, I can't go on anymore.

Tattoo is shared

During the operation, parts of the skin on his left arm were transplanted onto his right leg. A tattoo that showed the name of his daughter India was basically torn in half. For Cazorla, the fight continued, he could then rely on his club Arsenal, which despite his injuries stood by him again and again and extended his contract. "I'm very grateful for that," said Cazorla of the Gunners and coach Arsene Wenger. For the Spaniard, things were often sluggish in rehab; not much progress was made. "There were nights when I said to my family: It's over. Tomorrow I'll tell the physio, I can't go on. It was tough when you see there is no improvement," reported the offensive man. But driven by his own will and the desire to return to the field, the little Spaniard continued to plow through rehab.

New attempt at Villarreal

Cazorla had not played a game since October 2016, and in May 2018 he was able to participate in team training for the first time. At that time, however, he no longer got a contract with Arsenal, so he would have been unemployed from the summer. But then came his old youth club Villarreal and gave the technician a chance, perhaps the last one for him in the professional field. On August 18, 2018, the Spaniard made another competitive game, standing for the "yellow submarine" against Real Sociedad. An eternal period of suffering with almost two years without a football game was over. And Cazorla really picked up speed, appeared 35 times in the league last season, scored four times and submitted ten more goals.

Back in the national team after 1299 days

The strong performances did not go unnoticed by national coach Luis Enrique. In the summer of 2019 he returned to the national team after 1299 days. The last time he played for "Furia Roja" was in November 2015 in a 2-0 win against England. He himself described the return to the "Marca" as "unthinkable". On June 7th, he made his comeback in a 4-1 win against Faroe Islands.

Cazorla is celebrated

The Spaniard maintained his level and was therefore an indispensable part of the national team. "If someone had told me that this would happen after the season, I would not have believed it. It's been two tough years with injuries and I know that I'm 34 years old and it will be difficult to get back into the national team." said Cazorla last June. Spain beat Malta 7-0 in November with Cazorla on the pitch from the start, scoring a goal. He was then hailed in the media. The "Marca" headlined: "Mr. Santi Cazorla, you are a legend". In addition, the medium demanded: "The story of the evening was the dominance of Santi Cazorla. His fight and his determination should be shown in schools all over Spain. It's great to fight back from such severe injuries at the age of 34 and get back into your best form get."

Meanwhile, Cazorla is 35 years old and continues to build on his best days. In 24 games this season he scored eight strong goals for Villarreal this season and prepared six more goals. And with such a story with such a period of suffering, there are probably few football fans who do not allow him that. One or the other may even have goose bumps.