Santi Cazorla admits Mikel Arteta left the door open for him at Arsenal as he contemplates a fairytale ending with Real Oviedo | football news

Santi Cazorla participates in the virtual press conference prior to the play-offs of the Spanish Second Division. Real Oviedo, his childhood club, a club to which he returned last year, at the age of 38, asking not to receive a salary, is preparing to face Eibar in the semifinals.

It will be a momentous occasion. Oviedo have not played in the top flight for 23 years, a painful pause during which they have fallen to the fourth tier and survived financial turmoil. This play-off appearance is already the closest they have come to returning.

It shows Cazorla’s good character, then, that, even in this context, the beloved midfielder is happy to divert his attention from all that to answer a question from the only British journalist on the call about the possibility of returning to Arsenal when it’s over. .

After all, it is something that he himself has raised. “I really want to come back,” he said. The Guardian in April. Mikel Arteta, for his part, his friend and former teammate, has told it sky sports In his coaching staff there is room for his “incredible” energy and knowledge.

So, with Cazorla’s expected retirement this summer, could the stars align for him to return to a club where he made 180 appearances, scored 29 goals, won two FA Cups and became almost as popular as he was as a two-time European champion? ? Winner of the Spanish championship?

“I have a very special affection for Arsenal,” says Cazorla sky sports. “I spent six wonderful years there and I know how much all the people there love me.

“Of course, I was lucky enough to share a dressing room with Mikel Arteta and now he is the coach. We had conversations about that but right now I am not focused on anything other than contributing to this club, Oviedo, and continuing to enjoy football.” As a player.

“Then we will see what the future holds for me. It is clear that Arsenal is a Club that has always left the door open for me to return. But now I have enough on my mind with the play-offs and Trying to enjoy the last days of my playing career.”

And what a career it has been.

Those victories in the European Championship with Spain, in 2008 and 2012, continue to be the most notable. Helping end Arsenal’s trophy drought under Arsene Wenger was also special. But the prospect of promotion with Oviedo is something else.

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Santi Cazorla spent six seasons at Arsenal

“It would be a great achievement and a different achievement. When you play at home, the feeling is different. I have been lucky to win trophies, with Spain and also with England. But it is different when you play at the front.” from your friends and family.

“You feel responsible because you are contributing to the club of your heart. The level of responsibility is different with that added pressure.”

Cazorla loved his formative years in Oviedo and only left, initially to Villarreal at the age of 18 in 2003, due to the club’s precarious financial situation following their relegation two years earlier.

“This is a very special moment for me, being back after 20 years. It is one of the goals I set for myself, to finish my career here. What better way to do it than helping the team achieve promotion to the first division? I will try to achieve it personally and collectively.”

Injuries have limited him to 24 league appearances this season, only 10 of which have been starts. But there have been flashes of the old magic, most tangibly in the form of four assists, and it is telling that Oviedo have only lost two of those 10 games in which he has started.

Unfortunately, for both him and Oviedo, a muscle problem will prevent him from being available for Saturday’s home game against Eibar. But even when he’s not playing, his influence has been, and will be, enormous.

Santi Cazorla presents himself as a Real Oviedo player in August 2023
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Santi Cazorla returned to Real Oviedo in August with the minimum salary allowed

“What I tell the rest of the team is that we are in a privileged situation, a situation that many would like to be in,” he explains.

“Part of the responsibility we have is to manage our nerves, but above all we have to enjoy the occasion. We have always wanted to have an opportunity like this.

“I think this pressure was a problem for us in some games before the play-offs.” Oviedo only got through on goal difference after losing four of their last seven games. “But it shouldn’t be a burden. On the contrary. I just tell my teammates to enjoy it.”

Cazorla, a sublime talent who has always played with a smile on his face, is a master at it. And while his frustration over his latest injury is clear, his sense of humor still shines through as questions come in from reporters in various locations and on various topics.

The best Brazilian you have played with? “What’s happening with Marcos Senna?” he says with a smile from his former Villarreal and Spain teammate. “He played in Spain, but he is Brazilian. He would have to choose Marcitos because I have a great relationship with him.”

There is praise for Juan Román Riquelme, another former Villarreal teammate. “I always say he’s the best player I’ve ever played with.” And Cazorla sketches another of those enormous smiles when the Sporting de Gijón defender Cote, another of the speakers at the press conference, takes the opportunity to call him crackwhich roughly translates to champion, and added that he hopes to see him in the final, should his team beat Espanyol in the other tie.

Santi Cazorla Villarreal
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Santi Cazorla counts Villarreal among his former clubs

The prospect of a possible meeting between Oviedo and Sporting de Gijón, rivals in the principality of Asturias, just 30 kilometers away, adds another layer of intrigue to what is to come. “Having an Asturias derby in the final would be an incredible experience and would make it even more difficult for the team that loses,” smiles Cazorla.

“Those of us who are from Asturias know how football is experienced here and the desperation that people have to see their teams in the first division. In our case, it has been 23 years, without even playing in a play-off, so I you can imagine.” how people feel right now, being one step closer to achieving that dream.

“The hardest part is yet to come, but there is excitement in the city. You can see it in the streets. You can see it in people’s eyes.

“I hope we can bring joy to your hearts.”

That, of course, is something Cazorla has done throughout his career. Now, the challenge is to repeat the feat one last time. And beyond that? “I’ll figure it out later,” he says with a smile.

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