Can resurgent Santi Cazorla earn a return ticket to La Roja?
Background image: Frank94Rock, CC BY-SA 4.0
When Santi Cazorla was on the road to recovery from a gruesome injury in 2016, even being able to walk - let alone kicking a football- seemed a grave challenge. After undergoing surgery on his Achilles tendon which never healed properly, leading to an infection cutting eight centimetres deep into it, a possible foot amputation was seriously on the cards.
The Spaniard went through hell and back, enduring an unfathomable level of pain during his healing process. Sticking with Arsene Wenger’s supportive nature, Arsenal allowed him to undergo as many surgeries needed to make a full recovery. However, at one point his professional career seemed finished.
Now three years after the dark days, he’s operating as if nothing ever happened. Cazorla has been the creative backbone for an awoken Villarreal this season, displaying the majestic aura which made him such a darling in the Premier League.
His inspiring comeback story is enough proof for the wonders of the beautiful game, but Santi isn’t looking for the sympathetic route to success. After being introduced at Villarreal in a stylish Dragon Ball-Z inspired-pod, like Goku raising from his chambers, the Spaniard's evolved into a little super Saiyan himself!
Even at 34 years of age, Cazorla's acting like he never lost a step despite repeated injuries. Now fully fit, he’s causing havoc in La Liga. With three goals, two assists, 2.8 key passes per game, the attacking midfielder is turning back the years with his wonderful contribution to inspire the Yellow Submarine.
A set-piece wizard with the tendency to cause trouble with both feet, he’s not just created through corners or free-kicks but plenty through open play. Of course, he’s not the fastest to blaze past players, but he doesn’t even try that. Instead, Santi revolves his game around the benefit of his younger, quicker players, threading in majestic through-balls to break a defensive shape and allow opportunistic attackers like Gerard Moreno, Moi Gomez, Samuel Chukwueze to soar.
His wonderful contribution peaked at Camp Nou. Cazorla created chances left, right and centre, traumatising FC Barcelona’s frail defence by displaying his mighty vision. A stunning strike from a long way out left Marc Andre-Ter Stegen reeling, as the Spaniard went off to a rapturous response from the Barca fans applauding his fantastic outing.
- 2013: Injury.
- 2015: 8 surgeries in 1 year.
- 2016: Doctors told him to be satisfied if he could walk with his young son again.
- 2019: Scores a screamer against Barça at the Camp Nou and gets a standing ovation.
Massive respect. 💛👏 https://t.co/TKt87Xdwvs
Well, after that wonderful show, the Spaniard must’ve caught the eye of national team coach Robert Moreno. Of course, the new coach has placed emphasis on elevating youngsters into key roles. However, recalling an experienced star isn’t unprecedented for La Roja.
David Villa was called back at 35 to solve their striking issues. Moreover, Santi also received a call-up after a four-year gap from Luis Enrique in May. Now, it’s not exactly that Spain have creative issues, as players like Dani Ceballos, Saul Niguez and Suso will testify against that - but they do lack experience. With important UEFA Euro’s qualifiers up ahead, recalling an in-form Cazorla would be a wise decision.
Not only can he open up the cobwebs in their system with his exquisite game-reading ability, but he’ll also teach his younger peers a thing or two about finding the cutting-edge inside them. The experienced midfielder has developed into a patient, decisive playmaker who bides his time before splitting defences open. Perhaps bringing inheriting some restraint could help mature his blooming peers.
Granted, Spain’s new generation is probably more robust than him. However, they haven’t had to face his troubles, which makes him the wilful, influential figure he is today. By learning how to overcome difficulties, endure pressure and find the inner-warrior in them when under-fire, the younger midfielders could become stronger characters under his influence.
Time, sadly, is not on Santi’s side anymore. He’ll probably play a few years before hanging up his boots. After everything he’s gone through, he deserves a final hurrah before riding into the sunset. His inspired form warrants another shot at playing for the national badge, as an impending international recall would complete his heart-warming redemption arc after almost giving up on the beautiful game.