BC-SOC--Spain Squad,2nd Ld-Writethru
MADRID (AP) — Santi Cazorla was told by doctors a few years ago he would have a hard time walking with his son in the garden.
On Friday, coaches told him he will be playing for Spain again.
The 34-year-old Cazorla was the surprise name in Spain’s squad for next month’s European Championship qualifiers, marking the return of the attacking midfielder to the national team for the first time in four years after serious injuries threatened more than just his career.
Francisco “Isco” Alarcon also made it back for the matches against the Faeroe Islands and Sweden in June, while coach Luis Enrique again was absent because of personal reasons.
Also called up was Real Sociedad forward Mikel Oyazarbal, while back from injuries were Iago Aspas, Dani Carvajal, and Diego Llorente. Missing from the list were previous regulars such as Jorge “Koke” Resurreccion, Saul Niguez and Dani Ceballos.
Cazorla hasn’t been with the national team since November 2015.
“He is here because of his performance, which has been really good since the beginning of the season,” assistant Spain coach Robert Moreno said. “He is an example for the kids. He had to go through a lot, and hopefully destiny will give him back these 141 matches that he missed because of the injuries.”
Cazorla played with pain on hurting his ankle in 2013, then underwent left knee surgery in 2015 and needed another operation a year later because of a tendon injury in his right foot. Since then he has had eight surgeries because the wound kept opening and getting infected.
In an interview with Spanish newspaper Marca two years ago, Cazorla said doctors in England told him he should be satisfied if he can just walk properly. He said the infection caused a loss of eight centimeters of his Achilles tendon.
Cazorla didn’t play for several months before being signed by Spanish club Villarreal at the beginning of this season.
“He surprised us in the beginning, and was able to maintain his form,” Moreno said.
Moreno will be interim coach during the upcoming qualifiers as Luis Enrique remains out because of an undisclosed personal problem. Luis Enrique also missed the team’s previous two qualifiers.
Isco was left out of the previous list as he hadn’t played much with Real Madrid under coach Santiago Solari, but he regained his spot in the team after the return of Zinedine Zidane and convinced Luis Enrique to earn his place back in the national team.
“He is playing again and we are thrilled that he can help us with his talent,” Moreno said.
Spain plays at the Faeroe Islands on June 7, then hosts Sweden at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium three days later. It leads Group F with six points, two more than Sweden and three more than both Romania and Malta.
Goalkeepers: David De Gea (Manchester United), Pau Lopez (Real Betis), Kepa Arrizabalaga (Chelsea)
Defenders: Jordi Alba (Barcelona), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Jose Luis Gaya (Valencia), Diego Llorente (Real Sociedad), Mario Hermoso (Espanyol), Inigo Martinez (Athletic Bilbao), Sergi Roberto (Barcelona), Dani Carvajal (Real Madrid), Jesus Navas (Sevilla)
Midfielders: Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), Marco Asensio (Real Madrid), Rodri Hernandez (Atletico Madrid), Santi Cazorla (Villarreal), Fabian Ruiz (Napoli), Dani Parejo (Valencia), Francisco “Isco” Alarcon (Real Madrid)
Forwards: Rodrigo (Valencia), Alvaro Morata (Atletico Madrid), Iago Aspas (Celta Vigo), Mikel Oyazarbal (Real Sociedad)
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