Euro 2020 qualifiers: Cazorla keen to set example in Spain comeback

Santi Cazorla opened up about his three-year injury nightmare ahead of Spain's forthcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers.

Villarreal midfielder Santi Cazorla is preparing to make a stunning international comeback for Spain.   -  Getty Images

Santi Cazorla is eager to set an example for other experienced players as he prepares to make a stunning international comeback for Spain after injuries threatened to bring a premature end to his career.

The midfielder was told he might never be able to walk properly again after having reconstructive surgery and a skin graft to address the effects of two bouts of Achilles tendonitis towards the end of his five-year spell at Arsenal.

He missed the entire 2017-18 season before signing for Villarreal on a free transfer, where he completed a remarkable return to fitness and made 35 appearances in La Liga in 2018-19.

READ | Cazorla still playing through pain after Villarreal appearance

His form attracted the attention of Spain coach Luis Enrique, who handed the 34-year-old his first international call-up since November 2015, and Cazorla said he is determined to repay the faith shown in him as La Roja face the Faroe Islands and Sweden in a pair of Euro 2020 qualifiers.

"There have been times when I thought I'd throw in the towel, but this was only in the back of my mind," Cazorla told reporters.

"With the help of my people I pulled through, and now I try to enjoy every detail. I have been called up because they believe that my sporting level has been good enough to be part of the selection. I want to set an example for people my age to continue to be excited to wear this shirt."

Cazorla is by no means the only experienced head in Enrique's squad, which also features Sergio Ramos in defence and Jesus Navas in midfield. But the former Arsenal playmaker said he is keen to impart his knowledge to young midfielders like Atletico Madrid's Rodrigo and Napoli's Fabian Ruiz, in whom he places much confidence.

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"It is a new challenge, a new chapter, and I come with new intentions," Cazorla added. "I will try to bring my experience to young people. The current selection is capable of getting things. You don't have to think about the past or put pressure on the current team.

"There are huge players and great technicians who can deliver big results for this country. We are in a new phase with very talented young players who are doing things well."