Arsenal’s Santi Cazorla made his return to the field at the Emirates Stadium for the first time in 18 months on Thursday, warming up before the club’s Europa League clash with Atletico Madrid.
The midfielder suffered a severe ankle injury in the Gunners’ Champions League match against Ludogorets on October 16, 2016 on the same pitch. He has not played for Arsenal since.
Cazorla, 33, has been forced to undergo multiple surgeries on his ankle, foot and Achilles tendon, at one point suffering gangrene and requiring a skin graft. Amputation of his foot was considered a possibility.
His latest surgery in the fall of 2017 was his 10th, but Cazorla said in January he still has not abandoned hope of returning to the Gunners at some point in 2018, despite having suffered what Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger described as the “worst injury I have ever known”.
And now, while it is unlikely he will make his appearance this season, he has managed to get onto his home field once more, doing some running, movement and passing training prior to the Arsenal’s Europa League semi-final first leg against Diego Simeone’s Atletico.
Arsenal posted pictures of it on their official Twitter account.
“There have been moments when I’ve thought about throwing in the towel,” Cazorla told RTVE in January. “I’ve thought things like ‘maybe it is not worth continuing’.
“If things go well, maybe next year I can play at the top level again.”
For the first time since October 2016, Santi Cazorla is out running on the Emirates pitch. Welcome back, @19SCazorla! [@charles_watts] #afcpic.twitter.com/e2BHklz0FM
— afcstuff (@afcstuff) April 26, 2018
Look who’s here! 😍@19SCazorla has been training at the Emirates before #AFCvATLpic.twitter.com/Ud60EeXHP3
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) April 26, 2018
Cazorla joined Arsenal from Malaga in 2012 and has made 180 appearances in all competitions, scoring 29 times and winning two FA Cups.
His contract with Arsenal expires in the summer and his fitness will go a long way toward determining whether he is offered a new deal.