Former Arsenal midfielder Santi Cazorla says returning to Emirates Stadium to say goodbye to the club’s fans is “something which is left in my career.”

Cazorla, 35, left the Gunners after six years in 2018 following two years out with a serious ankle injury.

But he has made an amazing recovery at Villarreal and has even fought his way back into the Spain team.

“It was frustrating to not be able to say goodbye to a club who treated me so well,” he told BBC Sport.

“It is something left in my career to say goodbye properly. I am eternally grateful to the club and the fans for the way they continue to treat me.”

Reports have suggested that the Gunners are looking into the possibility of Cazorla returning for a farewell in some capacity, but the midfielder says he has no plans to join up with former team-mate Mikel Arteta in a coaching role.

“If I’m honest I don’t know if I will coach,” he said.

“I am undecided what I want to do when I retire. Being a sporting director appeals to me more than coaching but I want to be involved in the game, whatever feels right for me at the time.

“I have no plans in the short term to go anywhere or play abroad but I would never shut those doors. I am focused on ending the season with Villarreal.”

‘Arteta has everything you need’

Mikel Arteta and Santi Cazorla
Cazorla won two FA Cups alongside Arteta for Arsenal – scoring in the 2014 final

Cazorla played alongside new Arsenal boss Arteta during his time at the Emirates and is confident the club have the right man in charge.

The Gunners beat Newcastle 4-0 on Sunday to climb to within six points of Tottenham in fifth – but it was only their second league win under former Manchester City assistant Arteta.

“Arteta deserves to the the boss,” Cazorla said. “He was always a leader in the dressing room. It was the right decision to put him in as manager; it made sense and he has everything you need for the job.

“I hope he takes Arsenal up the table.”

Arsenal’s chances of being in next season’s Champions League may be on the slim side – but Cazorla could well be back in the competition with Villarreal.

Surgeons were unsure whether he would be able to walk again during his 668-day lay-off which included 11 operations and bacteria “eating” eight centimetres of his ankle tendon.

Now he is back in fine form – scoring six goals since Christmas – and has guided the Yellow Submarine into contention for a top-four place. Even more incredibly, Cazorla – part of the Spain team who won Euro 2008 and Euro 2012 – could be going for a third European title this summer after starting Spain’s last two qualifiers in November.

“Of course the Champions League is an aim but there are a lot of good teams and a lot of games to come,” he said.

Santi Cazorla
Cazorla has scored 12 goals for Villarreal this season

“I value playing more now – it is something I had lost, the feeling of being a footballer. After being off the pitch for two seasons I enjoy it a lot more.

“I have to be realistic and know there is not much time left in my career so I have to enjoy it while I can.

“I hope to be part of the squad for the Euros. It is a big challenge for us but we trust in the new generation of players. It won’t be easy to win the Euros but we will be one of the favourites and we must fight for it.

“It’s something I could not imagine a few years ago and it would be the best way to say goodbye to the national team.”

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