Cazorla delighted to be back on pitch after long injury layoff

MADRID: Spanish midfielder Santi Cazorla said it was "very special" to be playing top-level football again after making his comeback following an injury-plagued 21 months.

The former Arsenal playmaker, who had skin removed from his forearm and grafted on to his leg after undergoing eight operations on a persistent ankle injury, was told by doctors he would be lucky to walk properly again, let alone return to playing professionally.

“To feel like a footballer again is something very special,” Cazorla said after returning to the pitch on Tuesday when he came on as a second-half substitute for Villarreal in a pre-season friendly against Hercules, 636 days after his last outing in October 2016.

Following an extensive rehabilitation process, the 33-year-old last month re-joined former club Villarreal on a trial basis after being released by Arsenal.

“The warmth of everyone during this period is something that will stay with me forever," he told the La Liga club’s official website (

"The fans have given me strength and been there through all the bad times.”

Cazorla said he was determined to make the most of his second chance, adding: “Sometimes I can ask too much of myself and I don’t enjoy things.

“I’ve returned to training with my team mates and played a game at a good level. For me this was unthinkable 20 months ago. I’m just focused on getting 100 percent fit and doing what I love to do: playing football.”