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Santi Cazorla has returned to Real Oviedo to continue his rehabilitation as he targets a return to action for Arsenal before the end of the season.
The Spaniard has been out of action since 2016 and many believed that his career at the top level was over, including a leading specialist that we spoke to.
But, defying all expectations, the little wizard made an unexpected appearance on the Emirates pitch prior to Arsenal’s Europa League tie against Atletico Madrid.
Cazorla arrived at El Requexon, Real Oviedo’s training ground and academy base, at the start of the week, accompanied by a trainer from Arsenal.
There is no indication that Cazorla has suffered any sort of setback and the plan still seems to be to get him on the pitch for some minutes before Arsene Wenger leaves the club at the end of the season.
After his initial injury in 2016, the midfielder had a procedure to try to fix his Achilles problem once and for all.
Unfortunately, the wound refused to heal, he ended up contracting gangrene and had to have a skin graft.
These complications resulted in 10 surgeries altogether.
When we spoke to a top sports surgeon, who ‘specialises in adult reconstructive foot and ankle surgery, sports foot & ankle surgery and minimally invasive foot and ankle surgery’, late last year, he explained that given the amount of trauma to the area, it was unlikely that Santi would be able to play football at the top level again.
“Given the multiple surgeries required, the significance of the subsequent injury and the level at which he’s is required to perform at, it’s hard not to be pessimistic about his chances of returning to an elite level of professional sport,” said Mr James Walsh, who was at pains to stress he has not treated Cazorla and was merely commenting on the information made publicly available.
“A recent study from the American Journal of Sports Medicine quoted a 60% chance of return to professional sport following repair and these would have been far less significant injuries. In a basketball setting, athletes are far less likely to be accidentally kicked in the calf during a game.
“The loss of this much Achilles tendon and the likely reconstruction required would make it unlikely – though of course not impossible – that a player would be able to return to elite level football.”
He added: “Overall, this is a highly unusual and unfortunate complication and it shows that despite access to the best surgical and rehabilitation care, along with a compliant, highly motivated and physically fit patient, rare and severe complications can occur.
“The odds would seem to be against him, but never say never…”
Never say never indeed…