Arsene Wenger has described Santi Cazorla's awful Achilles injury as 'the worst he has ever known', but refuses to believe his playing career is over.
The Spaniard has been sidelined since October 2016 with an injury that was supposed to have kept him for just a short period.
Cazorla went in for surgery following the game with Ludogorets, but it was unsuccessful and the player underwent eight separate operations to try and correct the issue and contracted gangrene, which ate part of his tendon and almost caused him to lose his ankle.
The former Malaga and Villarreal midfield shed some light on his hellacious recovery in a recent interview with Marca, which showed pictures of him undergoing a skin graft sourced from his tattooed left forearm.
As reported by the Evening Standard, Wenger can't recall seeing anything worse in terms of injury during his time as a manager, but backed the 32-year-old to return.
He said: "It is the worst injury I have known, starting with a pain in the Achilles and it has gone from worse to worse.
"I must say I know how much Santi loves to play football and loves to be out there every day and I feel very sorry for what happened to him, because it is unbelievable."
Fan favourite Cazorla has been sorely missed by the Gunners, although there is widespread hope he will return in early 2018.
"I saw him one month ago, he was here, and I told him to prepare as well as he can," Wenger added.
"He can competent medical people around him and he tries to practise, but I have not spoken to him recently but I hope he comes back. Let’s not talk about that [potential career end], but I hope you are wrong."