Former Arsenal midfielder, Santi Cazorla, has earned a surprise recall to the Spanish national team for the first time in four years.
The 34-year-0ld Villareal midfielder was almost forced into retirement after undergoing 11 operations in two years.
But after battling back and starring for Villarreal this season, he has been selected by Luis Enrique for next month’s Euro 2020 qualifiers with Sweden and the Faroe Islands.
Four years after his last appearance for his country, Cazorla, who boasts 77 caps, has been included in Enrique’s 23-man squad.
Cazorla was highly thought of and respected by Arsenal staff and fans, but saw his final two seasons at the Emirates ruined by a serious of problems after suffering an Achilles injury.
A wound that refused to heal continually opened, with Cazorla suffering gangrene and being informed by doctors that an infection had eaten eight centimetres of his Achilles tendon.
Three more aggressive types of bacteria were found, causing infection to the extent that Cazorla was warned at one point that he risked losing his leg.
But after undergoing not just the 11 surgeries but also a number of successful antibiotic treatments – and having skin taken from his forearm and grafted onto the affected area, Cazorla returned to action last summer.
Speaking on the subject last summer, Cazorla told The Guardian:
“They didn’t know how much of the tendon the infection had eaten.
“Mikel [Sanchez, surgeon] said: ‘I’m going to have to open you up until I find the tendon’. They told me they’d have to open, open, open, open and when they did, they saw I had lost 10cm.
“I’d been lucky, they said, it could have been more. When he had to rebuild the tendon, he realised how bad a condition the bone was in. He could put his finger in it. It was like Plasticine. That’s even more dangerous.”
After returning to Villarreal last summer and proving his fitness in training, last July, after 636 days on the sidelines he returned to competitive action and went on to make 37 appearances in all competitions for the Yellow Submarines.
Other surprise inclusions in Luis Enrique’s squad include Real Sociedad duo Diego Llorente and Mikel Oyarzabal, while Iago Aspas and Dani Carvajal have both stepped back in after injury.