Santi Cazorla

Former Arsenal midfielder Santi Cazorla says nearly two years of suffering has been worth it after being presented as a Villarreal player for the third time on Thursday.

Cazorla, 33, feared his career was over when an infection he suffered after surgery almost led to his foot being amputated in 2017.

After eight operations, he left Arsenal earlier this year when his contract expired but he has proved his fitness during a trial with Villarreal this summer, earning a one-year contract with the La Liga side.

“All the suffering has been worth it for this moment alone,” said Cazorla, speaking after being magically beamed into a glass box at his presentation at the Estadio de la Ceramica.

“Now it’s time to work hard and I’m looking forward to this new challenge at Villarreal. My idea is to give everything and to be at the top level.

“I have to enjoy the moment, but I’m demanding and I want to keep improving. I won’t conform, that’s not me. I still have some pains and I want to get rid of them and be 100 percent. I think I can improve my level in the future.”

Spain international Cazorla, who made 228 appearances during two spells with Villarreal before stints with Malaga and Arsenal, is delighted to be back.

“It’s been a very special day, returning home,” he added. “I’m grateful to Villarreal, not just for how they opened the doors to me when I was 18, but for their unconditional support through difficult moments and for re-opening the doors to me [now].

“How the president and the club do things here is an example to follow. I’m emotional [to be back] because there are a lot of feelings and memories. And I hope I can keep making more, just like in the past.”

Villarreal kick off their La Liga campaign next Saturday with a home game against Real Sociedad, when Cazorla could make his first competitive appearance since October 2016.

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