Former Arsenal midfielder Santi Cazorla is eyeing a “beautiful” return to European action with his new club Villarreal.
The former Spain international has returned to his homeland after a serious Achilles injury wrecked the final two years of his time in North London.
It took eight operations to finally fix his troublesome ankle and he even had to have a section of skin from his left forearm, which featured a tattoo of his daughter’s name India, grafted on to his leg after contracting gangrene.
But he has put those woes behind him and is now set to make his first European appearance since helping the Gunners smash six past Ludogorets in October 2016, when the Yellow Submarine take on Steven Gerrard’s Rangers tonight.
Cazorla, 33, who rejoined Villarreal this summer, said: “My last match in Europe was two years ago in the Champions League, so returning to European competition is always beautiful and more so if it is with Villarreal. I have been able to live great things with this club and hopefully we will play a great role this year. We aspire to everything in all competitions, but we know it will be difficult.”
Cazorla was absent from the Villarreal line-up as they finally recorded their first win of the campaign at the fourth time of asking with Sunday’s 1-0 victory over La Liga basement boys Leganes.
But he is now hoping to make a mark against a side managed by one of his footballing idols.
Asked about Gerrard, he said: “He’s a point of reference. I’ve always looked up to him and I wish him the best in his coaching career from tomorrow.
“I think our team has done well since the start of La Liga and it is clear that everything looks better after a victory.
“Hopefully we start the Europa League with a good footing, although we are aware that Rangers is a very complex opponent. If we want to have winning options, we have to be intense.”