By 90Min
July 19, 2018

After spending 21 months off the pitch following a serious Achilles injury, former Arsenal midfielder Santi Cazorla has played as a substitute for Villareal in a pre-season friendly against Hercules.

The 33-year-old Spaniard made his last appearance in October 2016 in the Champions League against Ludogorets and has since been unable to play.

Jean Catuffe/GettyImages

Speaking with Spanish news outlet Marca, Cazorla expressed his desire to get rid of the pain and get back to playing football consistently, saying: "People tell me that I have to assess where I am now and where I was 20 months ago and to think about what I have gone through.

"I am only thinking about getting rid of the pain as soon as possible because I am not enjoying what I am doing.

PATRIK STOLLARZ/GettyImages

"I want to train with my colleagues again and to feel like a footballer. It is hard to express what it feels like to be out on the pitch after so much time.

"To feel like a footballer again, to feel the love of the people and the reception they gave me."

Santi Cazorla was part of Arsenal for six seasons until his contract ended in 2018, when he began training with former club Villareal.

LINDSEY PARNABY/GettyImages

Cazorla has strong links with Villareal, having made over 130 appearances for the Spanish side before he joined Arsenal and even spent time there as a youth player.

He spoke of his joy of being back at the club, saying: "They have treated me very well from my first day here. It is like I had never left.

"The treatment from my teammates and me feeling comfortable is so important for my progression. I cannot really repay or reward what Villareal have done for me.

"Not only when I was 18, but because they opened their doors after two years out and gave me their facilities without putting pressure on me.

"It is something that only this club can give me."

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