Many at Arsenal football club and Spain were left stunned when the terrible news broke out that Santi Cazorla may never play another game for Arsenal because of his reoccurring injury nightmare. However, after an 18-month rehab, Cazorla returned to full training after undergoing 10 operations on his troublesome heel problem.
On Monday, Arsenal confirmed that Cazorla would be leaving the club after not being handed a new contract.
Cazorla is at the end of his current deal after being given a one-year extension last summer by Arsene Wenger despite a long-term Achilles injury that ruled him out for the entire campaign. It is expected that the Spaniard will join his former club Villarreal for their pre-season preparations.
Cazorla scored 29 goals in 180 appearances and was a vital cog in Arsene Wenger's well-oiled midfield machine. As he leaves Arsenal in the summer, we take a look at some of his finest performances.
A debut to remember
Cazorla joined Arsenal from Malaga for a reported £15 million transfer fee in the summer of 2012 following an impressive season in La Liga, as his nine goals and six assists helped his team qualify for the Champions League for the first time.
The diminutive yet physically strong midfielder immediately impressed Wenger as he covered every blade of grass in a man-of-the-match display on his debut against Sunderland. Although the match ended in a 0-0 draw, Cazorla created the most number of chances and was the heart of the midfield throughout the course of the game. His trickery and quick movements took opposition players by surprise as the Spaniard dictated games at will.
Cazorla impressed further and grabbed his first goal for the club in a 2–0 win against Liverpool at Anfield. That was just the beginning of Cazorla's incredible season with the Gunners.
Scored screamers against London clubs
— London's Red Bitches (@LondonsRedFb) October 12, 2016
Cazorla continued to score crucial goals in his debut season. But, his best performances came against London clubs. An absolute screamer against West Ham was followed by a great finish in his first North London derby against Tottenham, all by the end of November.
In no time, he became an instant crowd favourite. He was one of the best two-footed players and his quick feet made him a hard player to contain and control. His wonderful range of accurate passing allowed him to dictate games as he quickly became the focal point of Arsenal's style of football.
Cazorla would go on to score 12 times and rack up 14 assists across all competitions in his first season at the club, playing both centrally and out on the left, demonstrating his versatility.
He also picked up the Arsenal Player of the Season award in his first campaign at The Emirates
Midfield industry against Manchester City
This was arguably Arsenal's best team performance, but the fans also witnessed one of the greatest all round individual displays. And that was from Cazorla. He stepped up when it mattered the most. He scored calmly from the penalty spot and later delivered a juicy cross for Olivier Giroud, who headed Arsenal's second. It was his midfield industry that stood out on the night as he bossed the midfield with some silky skills and world-class passes. No one could get close to him.
Cazorla worked his socks off and even contributed inside his own half. He intercepted the ball on multiple occasions to help the Gunners turn defence into attack. With 15 minutes to go, his midfield genius encapsulated his twinkle-toed splendour perfectly. It was a 10 on 10 performance by Cazorla at the Etihad. Arguably, the best.
FA Cup hero
With his side two goals down against Hull City in the final, Cazorla knew that he had to produce something special to turn things around. Arsenal won a free-kick just outside the edge of the box and Cazorla, a dead-ball specialist, pulled one back with a fabulous effort to provide a lifeline for the Gunners.
The strike sparked his side into life, and they produced a famous comeback to win 3-2 after extra-time. It was Cazorla's moment of magic that saw the tide turn in Arsene Wenger's side's favour.
Notably, Cazorla had also tucked home the winning penalty in the shootout against Wigan in the semi-final to send Arsenal to the final of the FA Cup at Wembley Stadium.
FA Cup double
Cazorla proved to be the dangerman yet again as Villa were blown away at Wembley. The Spaniard took centre stage along with Alexis Sanchez and Theo Walcott.
The former Malaga ace ran the game in the middle and he was at the heart of most of Arsenal's best moves with some nimble footwork. Although he didn't score in the final, he was adjudged as the man of the match for his match-winning display. He played full 90 minutes and helped Walcott score Arsenal's first just before half-time. The Cazorla-Ramsey combination saw Sanchez thump in a long-range effort early in the second half.
Wenger spoke about what makes Cazorla such a special player: "His technical quality and intelligence. He's a model to watch because he's specifically a player for the Premier League. He's a good example of how to educate young players in midfield. He's very intelligent, and it shows as well how important it is to be left and right-footed in midfield."
Updated Date: May 22, 2018 15:46 PM