For the rest of his career, Santi Cazorla will be reminded of his daughter when he ties the laces on his cleats. Now grafted to his ankle is a piece of the tattoo of his daughter’s name, India, that used to adorn his left arm. Underneath his new ankle tattoo is a reconstructed Achilles’ tendon.
According to an interview Cazorla gave Spain’s Marca on Friday, infections, including gangrene, had eaten away at his tendon for months while he tried to remain an active player.
“Everything that I have gone through has not been as simple an injury as people have believed,” the 32-year-old Spaniard told the paper.
In 2016, Cazorla was diagnosed with a tendon problem in the plantar area of his right foot. He underwent surgery in October of that year but had no idea he would end up under the knife seven more times between then and May 2017. According to Cazorla, his injury never healed properly, which led to several serious bacterial infections that would begin to eat away at his Achilles’ tendon.
“There was eight centimeters of it missing,” Cazorla said, noting doctors at first were not optimistic about his prognosis. At least one even suggested his leg might need to be amputated.
“ ‘If you get to walk again with your son in the garden, be satisfied,’ [doctors] told me,” said Cazorla, who, incidentally, has an intact tattoo of his son’s name on his right arm written in Tengwar, a script devised by J.R.R. Tolkien for his “The Lord of the Rings” high fantasy.
But things appear to have gone better than expected, according to the player, who went on some serious antibiotics to clear the infections before undergoing his final surgery, which consisted of an Achilles’ tendon reconstruction and his now-famous skin graft May 29.
Today, Cazorla spends his days trying to strengthen himself, swimming, biking and even doing Pilates, according to Marca. His most promising rehabilitation exercises, however, have taken place on the field, where he’s now able to run.
“I do not have clearance [to play for Arsenal] until January, but I will come back by then,” Cazorla said, adding Arsenal has been very supportive throughout his ordeal.
“Arsenal had a nice touch when they extended my contract until June 2018 when I got injured,” he said (via ESPN FC on Friday).
“Now I realize who is who,” he added, referring to those who have shown the most support, including several members of the Spanish national team.
Cazorla, who joined Arsenal from Malaga in 2012, has 29 goals in 180 appearances for the Premier League team.