Arsenal midfielder Santi Cazorla hopes to be able to play again before the end of the season.
The 33-year-old has not featured for the Gunners since October 2016 because of an Achilles problem which needed several surgeries, including a skin graft from his arm.
Cazorla, though, has been stepping up his rehabilitation and did some training out on the Emirates Stadium pitch ahead of last week’s Europa League first leg against Atletico Madrid.
It remains to be seen whether Cazorla, signed from Malaga in August 2012, will return to action over the closing weeks of what will be the last season in charge for current manager Arsene Wenger.
As part of his rehabilitation, the midfielder was back at former club Real Oviedo on Tuesday.
Cazorla confirmed his intentions to try to get back into action this season, after which his current deal at Arsenal is set to expire.
“I’ve still got some way to go, because after being sidelined for 18 months, everything has to be done in its own time. But the sensations I have keep getting better and I’m feeling optimistic about the future,” said Cazorla, quoted by Spanish media outlet AS.
“The objective is to play some part with the team before the season ends, but we have to take things carefully.
“After being out for so long it will take a while to get back into form, it’s a real struggle, but when you have been out like I have, you also notice pains elsewhere – apart from what I’ve had with my tendon.
“But all of that must mean that I am doing things right, and I hope to be back as soon as possible.”
Cazorla does not yet know whether he will be at Arsenal next season as the north London club prepare for a first campaign without Wenger at the helm in 22 years.
The midfielder, though, believes the impact of the veteran French coach will only be truly felt once he has left.
“I hope the club gives him a good send-off. He has given his life to Arsenal. He has made his decision and I hope whoever comes in has all the luck in the world,” Cazorla said.
“England is second to none when it comes to valuing the work of people who have dedicated their lives to a football club – you could see that in the reception he got at Old Trafford (against Manchester United on Sunday)”.
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