Santi Cazorla was told his serious ankle injury might have left him unable to walk, but now insists he will return to action for Arsenal at the turn of the year.
The 32-year-old has not played for the Gunners since October 2016 and has undergone eight operations on the troublesome Achilles issue.
Despite the drawn-out process, the Spain international remains determined to return to action – even after being told he would be lucky to walk properly following all of the procedures.
He also admitted to crying in pain as he tried to battle the injury – which first occurred in 2013 – while continuing to turn out for Arsenal.
“In the early stages it was feeling a little better, if I got warmed up I could play, but at the break when I cooled down a bit, I would cry,” he told Marca.
“At that time I was still playing and they (doctors) told me it was okay. The problem was that it did not heal and the wounds would reopen and become infected.
“If you’re able to walk in the garden with your son again, you should be satisfied, they told me.”
After not being able to find a satisfactory resolution, Cazorla travelled back to Spain to see Dr Mikel Sanchez and had his Achilles tendon reconstructed.
“He saw that I had a tremendous infection,” added Cazorla. “It had damaged part of the calcaneus (heel) bone and had eaten eight centimetres of the Achilles tendon.”
Despite his travails, Cazorla is keen to return in 2018 and admitted being away from his family had proven to be the toughest part of his recovery.
“I won’t be registered until January, but I will be back by then,” he said. “My family are still in London because my children have started school there, being alone without them is the hardest thing.”
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger said in September that he was also hopeful Cazorla would return in the new year.
‘The flexibility of his ankle and his mobility looks good,” the Frenchman said.
“It’s now about getting back to full fitness without having any setbacks. It’s very difficult not to set a time before Christmas, that’s why I didn’t involve him in the Europa League.
“But overall, after Christmas I hope he will be available. He has not played for over a year now, so you’re always cautious to set a time or date. But overall it looks positive.”