Santi Cazorla’s head was bowed in the hallway of Benito Villamarin’s stadium in April 2019. His penalty execution in the final minutes of the match vs. Real Betis had just failed, making Villarreal lose and on the verge of relegation.
Efforts by coach Javier Calleja to entertain in vain. Cazorla has dissolved in the saliva of regret; imagine the possibility of himself being the cause of Villarreal’s degradation.
For Cazorla, Villarreal is everything. This club is the starting point to pursue a career as a professional footballer. This club once made him have the chance to shake Spain for refusing Real Madrid’s offer. This is a club that takes it back and – with pride – calls it home.
Went Twice, Went Three Times
There was a time when Cazorla was nobody to El Madrigal’s public. He was only 17 years and six months old when he was part of the Villarreal youth team at the start of the 2003/04 season.
Although the player from Llanera, Asturias is promoted to the first team in a matter of months, his debut lasts only for one minute (against Deportivo La Coruna on 30 November 2003). He is believed to appear once again by coach Benito Floro when facing Atletico Madrid on March 28, 2004-this time, for 65 minutes. However, few would dare to predict that he will appear regularly in the next season.
If there is someone who believes in Cazorla’s magical touch, then that is his former coach at Real Oviedo, Luis Sanchez.
“Santi immediately stands out, even though he is small. He can kick the ball well using both feet. He can pass you from any side,” said Sanchez as quoted by These Football Times . “The game is dynamic, special. The talents are natural.”
Cazorla is used to using his legs to process the ball, even before the coaches ask for it. Since childhood, he used to kick with his left and right legs when training with his father.
Nevertheless, talent alone is not enough. A player must have a positive impact on the overall team play on the pitch if you want to continue to be trusted.
Cazorla is actually quite routine to get minutes of playing for two seasons under the direction of coach Manuel Pellegrini, but the difficulty to add value to the game Villarreal-moreover, at that time, they still have Juan Roman Riquelme as a midfield conductor. He was sold to Recreativo Huelva at a low price, which is 600,000 Euros in the summer of 2006.
Little Cazorla knows, the move to Recreativo was a turning point in his career. Being a starter from week to week makes it easy to hone skills and show great potential.
Cazorla brought Recreativo to a new promotion at the start of the 2006/07 season to finish in 8th place. The sports magazine Don Ballon awarded him the title of Best Player of Spain.
Slick performance with Recreativo made Villarreal immediately activate the Cazorla repurchase clause of 1.2 million Euros. After that, he never lost his place as a core player.
Bringing Villarreal, a club that spent 50 years to debut in La Liga, finishing as runner-up in the 2007/08 season is certainly not an arbitrary achievement. Cazorla was glimpsed by Madrid, but for him the splendor of the Santiago Bernabeu was no warmer than El Madrigal.
“There are many things in football besides Real Madrid. Saying no to them is possible,” Cazorla said. “There is no doubt that they are a great team, but I also feel very satisfied and valued by Villarreal.”
Immediately, the name Cazorla etched eternally as a hero for supporters of El Submarino Amarillo .
It was a situation which later forced Cazorla to leave Villarreal for Malaga in 2012. Even supporters can understand: playing at Segunda is clearly not ideal for a star who has just managed to bring Spain to defend the European Cup.
In contrast to his first departure, Cazorla promised that their departure would not be ‘goodbye, but’ see you again ‘.
He is not lying. On August 10, 2018, he officially returned to defend Villarreal, but no one expected his third return to go through tragedy.
Cazorla is a miracle
Villarreal’s management celebrates Cazorla’s special return. He was introduced (again) through a magic act in the middle of El Madrigal’s field; an empty transparent tube filled with smoke, then somewhere Cazorla appeared.
This theatrical action is in line with the nickname that Cazorla has: ‘The Magician’ . The nickname itself comes from his ability to pass and kick the ball which often makes the audience amazed. Magical.
The problem is, not many believe that Cazorla is still as magical as it once was. He was already head three. Not to mention the fact that he did not play at all during 2018/19 due to severe injuries suffered.
Villarreal supporters and management – who only provide contracts for one year plus an option to extend one year – have low expectations. Cazorla himself did not expect much. How come? He had just recovered from an injury that made his body like a “puzzle piece” and was asked by doctors “grateful if he could again walk with his son in the park”.
Cazorla was almost amputated due to an Achilles injury he suffered. He underwent surgery 10 times in one year’s time. The semitendinosus muscle from its hamstring is forced to be cut to reconstruct the heel tendon which was gnawed by bacteria.
All of these expectations are wrong. Cazorla was reborn, especially after buying up two goals against Madrid in early January 2019.
So, naturally, if Cazorla could not hold back his sadness when his failure to execute a penalty can make Villarreal relegated. Of course, we all know, in the end, they finished 14th.
“He is the only good thing (at Villarreal) this season. If he had been so loved before, now he is increasingly loved here,” Radio-Real reporter Javi Mata told Sky Sports . “He is an idol for supporters. He made them realize the meaning of this club again.”
Cazorla not only returned for Villarreal, but also for Spain. He started in the 2020 European Cup Qualifying match against the Faroe Islands on 6 June 2019. It was the first time Cazorla defended the national team after 1,302 days.
The last time he played for La Furia Roja before a long absence due to injury, Cazorla scored one goal to help his team beat England on 13 November 2015. On 15 November 2019, he again listed his name on the scoreboard in the 7-0 win against Malta. If he is able to maintain his performance, it is not impossible that Cazorla will be brought to the 2020 European Cup.
“Now, I see football in a different way. Before, I did not enjoy being in a hotel, on a bus on the way to the stadium,” Cazorla told the
BBC last year. “I struggled very hard for two years to be able to get moments like this again. I will try to enjoy it and maximize every second because I don’t know how long this will last.”
Naturally, so it is with us who can still enjoy Cazorla, until who knows how much longer the magic will last.