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Arsenal's Santi Cazorla targets January return after amputation fears

Arsenal midfielder Santi Cazorla hopes to return to action in January after undergoing eight operations in the space of a year following severe right ankle injury complications.

Cazorla, 32, has not played since Oct. 19, 2016, and was initially expected to return from a right ankle injury three weeks later.

However, he underwent three surgeries in a three-month span and doctors in England were pessimistic regarding the player's recovery.

"I don't have a spot until January but my intention is to return by then," Cazorla told Marca. "I never listened to those that said that I would only be able to play football with my children, I have plenty of football left in me."

He shared a photograph of the state of his right ankle following the effects of the numerous operations and it appeared on Marca's front page.

A skin graft from his left arm was required to cover the wound, meaning part of a tattoo is now on his foot.

"If you manage to walk with your son again in the garden, be satisfied," Cazorla said he was told.

His eighth and last surgery was carried out in May in Spain with Vitoria-based doctor Mikel Sanchez horrified by what he discovered.

There were fears that Cazorla would need to have his foot amputated.

"He [Dr. Sanchez] saw that I had a tremendous infection, that had damaged part of the calcaneum bone, eaten the Achilles tendon, there were eight centimetres missing!" Cazorla said. "This hasn't been a simple injury as people may have thought.

"The problem was that it would not heal, the wound would reopen and it would get infected."

Cazorla, who has scored 29 goals in 180 appearances for Arsenal since joining the club from Malaga in 2012, has been working with Spain's national team physio Juan Carlos Herranz in the city of Salamanca to regain his fitness.

"My family is in London as the children had to start school," he said. "To be without them is the hardest thing."

Cazorla's determination has never faltered.

"No one placed their trust in me but I did and I continue to do so, even though the pain makes me wary," he said.

A Euro 2008 and 2012 winner with Spain, Cazorla says Arsenal and his former Spain national teammates have been very supportive.

"Arsenal had a nice touch when they extended my contract until June 2018 when I got injured," he said. "Now I realise who is who [those who care]. Each day I get a message from [Barcelona's Andres] Iniesta, [Manchester City's David] Silva and [New York FC's David] Villa."

Adriana Garcia is a Valencia-based football writer who covers La Liga for ESPN FC.

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