The Tragic Case of Santi Cazorla

 

When the football gods began building Santi Cazorla, they gave him a technical talent that all creative midfielders crave. He possessed exceptional vision and technique and was capable of creating limitless opportunities for both himself and his grateful teammates. Sadly, when the fires were blazing in his creation, a physical fault was also born and would hamper him persistently during his professional career!

Without those fatal physical flaws, Cazorla would probably be spoken of as one of the greats of the young 21st century, but that was not the path laid out in front of the incredibly talented Spaniard.
Born in 1984, Cazorla’s professional career started in 2003 for Villarreal after an impressive youth career for his hometown club Real Oviedo and Covadonga. Villarreal is not where he first found fame though. After going out on loan at Recreativo de Huelva for the 2006-07 La Liga season, Cazorla was named Spanish Footballer of the year for helping Recreativo de Huelva finish in the top ten in the Spanish La Liga.
The 2007-08 La Liga season saw Cazorla return to Villarreal, where he continued to play until 2011. The following year (2008) he earned his first cap for the Spanish National team, where he subsequently earned a further 77 caps, scoring 14 goals in those matches. In those 77 appearances he has helped the Spanish National side win the European Championship twice (2008 and 2012) and was a major fixture for the team in the 2014 World Cup.
2009 is the year his steps to stardom began to stumble. That year he suffered from a fractured fibula, an injury he sustained against Almeria, but he went on to return to Villarreal before the season was over after missing 52 days. The following season (2009-10) he struggled with injury even more, with his main injury being a torn abductor muscle that forced him to miss the 2010 World Cup, where Spain won for the first time ever. After helping Villarreal the following campaign (2010-11) to a fourth place La Liga finish and qualification for the UEFA Champions League, he left Villarreal to start his next professional chapter at Malaga.
Showing his talent, he scored in his official debut from a brilliant free kick against Sevilla. He only spent one season at Malaga and was able to make it through without injury, showing that he could help a team with his quality, getting Malaga into fourth place and helping them reach the Champions League for the first time in the club’s history.
After that successful season where he was the second leading scorer for his side, the bright lights and new challenges of moving to the English Premier League’s Arsenal was too much for the attacking midfielder to pass up. Arsenal had already signed the German attacker Lukas Podolski and the French striker Olivier Giroud, and fans were excited to see the new offensive firepower explode on the pitch.
Arsenal fans, along with everyone else, believed Cazorla had beaten the injury bug for good, as he was the only player who was featured in all 38 English Premier League matches for Arsenal and was even named Arsenal player of the year for 2012-13. For the year he had appeared for the club 49 times total with 12 goals and 14 assists. Although the 2012-13 season started with more of the same dynamic play from Cazorla, he missed 35 days due to an ankle injury he sustained on September 12, but it did not keep him out for the rest of the season. November 30th of 2013, he made his 300th appearance between his stops in La Liga and the EPL. His return from the ankle injury helped spark Arsenal’s run to the FA Cup final and he scored their first goal while down 2-0 to Hull City, igniting a 3-2 comeback.

The 2015-16 campaign saw Cazorla starting to get more credit for his exciting and successful play making ability, as he was seen routinely sending balls into space and connecting with his teammates in tight spaces. Unfortunately, he sustained a knee injury on November 30 in a match against Norwich City and then on March 7th 2016 he aggravated his Achilles tendon, leaving him out of play until the final match of the campaign.
Rehabilitation and hard work brought Cazorla back to action at the beginning of the 2016-17 campaign, and he was featured in 11 matches before injuring his Achilles Tendon again during a Champions League match against Ludogorets Razgrad. The ankle, originally injured in 2013, would not heal and he was forced to have several surgeries on it, before contracting gangrene and nearly losing his leg. After being off the pitch for 613 days and with his contract with Arsenal running out, Cazorla returned to the pitch with Villarreal in 2018.
Although his professional career is still going, Cazorla is no longer the feared creator he once was, and it appears that his days in the Spanish National team are behind him. Once seen as one of the young promising stars of the EPL, fans can still catch him on the pitch with Villarreal where he has appeared in 21 matches, scoring 4 goals during the 2018-19 season.
But it’s another case of ‘what if’, what if his injuries hadn’t hampered his Arsenal career. Who knows, we could be talking about one of the greatest attacking midfielders in Premier League history.

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