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Cazorla’s long journey: Gangrene, skin grafts, eroding Achilles tendon

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Arsenal’s Spanish midfielder Santi Cazorla plays the ball during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Queens Park Rangers at the Emirates Stadium in London on December 26, 2014. AFP PHOTO / GLYN KIRK RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. Restricted to editorial use. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or live services. Online in-match use limited to 45 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. (Photo credit should read GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)

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It’s been some time since we’ve seen diminutive Spanish wizard Santi Cazorla roaming the pitch for Arsenal.

One of the club’s true X-factors, Cazorla has had setback after setback in trying to return from injury, and he’s laid out some of the reasons for it.

They sound terrible.

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At one point, doctors told Cazorla constant infections of a wound could deprive him of the chance to walk. He needed a skin graft from his forearm, taken from a tattoo of all places.

It’s wild. Here’s Cazorla, through MARCA:

“If you get to walk again with your son in the garden, be satisfied, they told me.”

Cazorla had been dealing with constant pain in his ankle dating back to 2013, and would play through it. He says even when he got the ankle properly warmed up, he’d be near tears in pain during halftime after it cooled down.

After surgery, the wound continued to open. He suffered gangrene, and has undergone eight operations. And the infections ate away at his tendons.

“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 noted. “There was eight centimetres of it missing!”

Cazorla said people recognize him during rehab but don’t believe it’s him, and he plans to be able to train in January. For Arsenal, it means the return of one of its key “glue guys.” For Cazorla, it marks the next step in a harrowing journey.

Follow @NicholasMendola