Former Arsenal midfielder Santi Cazorla has praised the "incomparable" warmth shown to him by the club's fans during his six-year stint in north London.
The Spaniard moved to the Gunners from Malaga in August 2012 for a fee in the region of £15m and instantly became a popular figure with supporters, as well as in Arsenal's dressing room.
The veteran midfielder, who has recently forced his way back into the Spain squad, eventually departed for Villarreal in the summer of 2018 after spending two years on the sidelines with a serious ankle injury that almost cost him his foot.
But Cazorla has only fond memories of his time at the club, revealing that his only regret is that he was not able to say goodbye before he departed for his native Spain.
"Arsenal is the team who supported me so much and gave me so much love," Cazorla told Sports Illustrated.
"The warmth they have for me is often incomparable. It meant so much to me. Football moves us in so many ways, so when you’re not playing well, you feel bad, but the fans were amazing. It was sad to not be able to properly say goodbye to them, but I truly cherish my time there.”
During his time at the club, Cazorla was initially deployed as an attacking midfielder before Arsene Wenger opted to drop him into a deeper pivot role. There, he played some of his best football in the capital - before he suffered a potentially-life changing achilles tendon injury against Ludogorets in October 2016.
Initial surgery was followed by a raft of complications, meaning Cazorla had to undergo a staggering ten operations as a bacterial infection effectively ate away 8-10cm of his achilles tendon.
Fortunately, Cazorla was able to overcome concerns that his foot may need to be amputated, and after intense rehabilitation and recovery, he returned home to Spain to continue his career in La Liga. As a result, the 34-year old is just thankful that he's been able to resume playing.
“After everything I have been through, I think the biggest takeaway is that I pay more attention around me and try to enjoy the little things even more now,” Cazorla added.
“Entering the pitch, for example, means that much more. When you’re young and healthy, you take it for granted, so every time I enter the pitch, I take it all in. The stadium atmosphere, the fans, I take it all in.
Source : 90min