The fans still talk fondly of him and reminisce about a wonderful pass, stunning goal or his general appetite for the game. Santi Cazorla will long be remembered at Arsenal for his silky skills which graced the North Londoners stadium and the fact that the fans and player never got to say their goodbyes still irks both parties.
The awful end of his Arsenal career was based purely on an incorrect medical diagnosis, which concluded that Cazorla’s best days were behind him and that he wouldn’t be able to compete at the highest level after a devastating Achilles injury in October 2016.
After the incident against Ludogorets, Cazorla initially thought it was a simple ankle sprain but the true condition was far more complicated, with bacteria eating eight centimetres of his ankle tendon.
His career was in the balance and there were fears that he might lose a leg. The lead surgeon advised the Spaniard to forget about football and to be “satisfied” just to walk again.
That was never going to happen, Cazorla loves the game and that’s reflected in how he plays, with a smile. While Arsenal embarrassingly assisted him out of the back door of the Emirates, Villarreal welcomed him back like a long lost son.
The happiest of outcomes arrived when he regained his form and a place in the Spanish national side and you would have thought that Cazorla would finally be content but he isn’t.
“When you are at a big club like Arsenal, sometimes you don’t realise what it means to be there until you are gone,
I never got to say a proper goodbye. It was the biggest team I played for in my career and I miss everything about Arsenal. I don’t know what my legacy is there, you would have to ask the fans, but I want to say thank you to them all. I would like to play at the Emirates one last time before I retire.”
“I don’t know what I will do afterwards – maybe a coach, maybe a sporting director – but I would love to go back to Arsenal. I lived in London for six years. My son loved it there. In the future, we will see if I have the possibility.”
At 34, with his career running down, Arsenal fans would leap at the chance of his return. The majestic playmaker could still shine in the premiership on the evidence of his performances against sides such as Barcelona.
He still has a great appetite and fabulous engine, still able to seize control by pulling the necessary strings. As unlikely as it is, we can dream on a grand scale about the Spanish magician gracing the Gunners stadium once again.
Casting his spell on us with his incisive runs, which open up defences like a surgeon’s knife. The beautiful poise, balance, control and vision would justify the admission price, even if it were double.
Xhaka, Torreira, Guendouzi, Willock & Ceballos combined in the Premier League this season:
•34 chances created
For context Santi Cazorla alone in La Liga this season has:
•26 chances created
Lack of creativity from midfield is poor.
— Premier League Panel (@PremLeaguePanel) October 21, 2019
It’s no secret that Arsenal are down in the dumps at present and the supporters could certainly do with a lift and although it’s unrealistic, Cazorla would be a welcome tonic and fabulous distraction.
He is as much Arsenal as he was an Arsenal player and was the epitome of the Wenger’s era. Exceptionally skilled, competitive and exciting, something that is currently missing.
Cazorla was a fan favourite but like so many from overseas, he has become part of the club’s fabric, as much as Henry or Bergkamp.
Will the gunners grant his wish for a return ? Of course not, but wouldn’t it bring the sun back to a fractured and dysfunctional club.
Come home Santi.