Adios Santi Cazorla – The Smiling Spaniard

Santi Cazorla is set to rejoin his former club, Villareal – and the news is another departure that is hard to swallow.

The Spaniard has been fighting hard for over 18 months to return from a horror injury that nearly claimed his leg, and upon seeing the first images of the sunny Spaniard’s return to training, social media was awash with not only nostalgia – but genuine warmth.

Because Santi Cazorla unites our fans. He is one of those rare breeds that no matter what end of the fan spectrum you are, you cannot help but love the man.

It has helped inexorably that he is perhaps one of the most talented players we have ever had at the club – and his departure and injury that cost him 18 months of playing time will cast a shadow over his time as a Gunner.

The diminutive midfielder is also two-footed – so much so that it is hard to tell which is his natural side and which did he work on tirelessly on the training field at. This ability puts him above most, and also helped out in tight situations.

Santi Cazorla is often described as one of the most blessed his teammates have ever seen – even when compared to Mesut. He has been a source of joy when on the ball, and his talents should be held up to young players as a target to aim for. Should any kid make it and have Santi’s level of skill on his left and right foot? He’ll be destined for greatness -but he’ll need another of Santi’s attributes to succeed too – appetite.

This hunger formed the foundation for his transition from playmaker to a central role – and is probably the biggest testament to his worth.

His success in the middle of the park showed that he wasn’t a one-trick pony. He could create openings in tight games, but his desire saw him outmuscle players he had no right to, and his carrying of the ball forward at the tight times, smacked of tactical acumen and bags of skill.

The thing that us fans will remember above all though?

He played with a smile on his face. He loved the game, he genuinely enjoyed wearing our colours, and he gave everything to us when he was on the pitch.

Villareal will most likely be his last club before retirement, should he return to full fitness. The La Liga club have prior history with our talent – having taken Robert Pires from us when he departed.

We were robbed of what could have been the start of a budding partnership with Aaron Ramsey thanks to his troublesome achilles, and his subsequent recuperation was watched avidly by us all – for two reasons.

Firstly, we knew how much our team could benefit from having a fit Cazorla in our side.

Secondly, we all just missed seeing him.

He possesses the talent to change defence to attack, to grab the ball to stem a tide, to transform what is a tricky scenario into a promising one.

The end of his career is similar to Tomas Rosicky’s in a way.

Both were talented midfielders, blessed with a velvet touch. They also held the affection of all fans. Injury stole some of their time with us, but the ending will be the same too.

We will look at Cazorla the same way as we do at Tomas.

With misty-eyed nostalgia – and gratitude.

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