(GUARDIAN) - Santi Cazorla has revealed the extent of his long layoff from football, revealing how an ankle injury he sustained in 2013 almost led to his leg being amputated.
The Arsenal midfielder has not played since a 6-0 Champions League victory over the Bulgarian side Ludogorets last October and even that now appears remarkable given the difficulties he has endured since sustaining a tear to the bone after he was kicked in the right ankle while playing for Spain in October 2013.
In an interview with the Spanish newspaper Marca , Cazorla explains how the pain of the injury remained for some time - and still does to some extent - after the incident and was so bad that it lead to him breaking down in tears.
Last December, he then underwent surgery because of a tendon injury in his right foot - having undergone surgery due to a ruptured ligament in his left knee 12 months previously - and, after the wound failed to heal, a further eight bouts of surgery.
"The medical professionals told me it was OK, the problem was that it did not heal and the wounds would reopen, and become infected," said Cazorla, before going on to explain how he sought a long-term solution to the problem in England, but failed to do so and so decided to visit a specialist in Spain who outlined to the 32-year-old just how bad the damage to his right foot and leg had become.
"He saw that I had a tremendous infection, that I had damaged part of the calcaneus bone and it had eaten the Achilles' tendon," Cazorla told Spanish daily Marca.
"There was eight centimetres of it missing."
Cazorla who joined Arsenal from Malaga for £15 million (S$26.6 million) in August 2012 and has made 180 appearances for the London club, underwent several antibiotic treatments in order to clear up the infection and was told during the process that there was a risk that a blood infection could have meant amputation of his leg.
That outcome was thankfully avoided and Cazorla, having undergone a last bout of reconstructive surgery on the injured tendon in May, is now on the road back to full recovery.
Having signed a recent contract extension that ties him to Arsenal until June 2018, he hopes to play for Arsene Wenger's side again in January.
"Everything that I have gone through has not been as simple an injury as people have believed," added Cazorla.
"Nobody trusted me but I do, I still do, although the pain keeps me cautious."