Santi Cazorla is playing again, but the former Arsenal midfielder admits he is “not enjoying” his ongoing fight for fitness after linking up with Villarreal.
Arsenal were unable to offer an extended stay to a man who has been sidelined for the best part of two years with a series of ankle problems.
Cazorla has been able to get back out onto the field with Villarreal, playing 15 minutes of a friendly clash with Hercules on Tuesday, but concedes that 636 days out have left him playing through pain.
He told Marca on the mixed emotions a return to action has delivered: “People tell me that I have to assess where I am now and where I was 20 months ago and to think about what I have gone through.
“I am only thinking about getting rid of the pain as soon as possible because I am not enjoying what I am doing.
“I want to train with my colleagues again and to feel like a footballer. It is hard to express what it feels like to be out on the pitch after so much time.
“To feel like a footballer again, to feel the love of the people and the reception they gave me.”
While feeling a little frustrated at present, Cazorla is delighted to be back at Villarreal.
He started his professional career with the Yellow Submarine, before returning to take in a productive second spell between 2007 and 2011.
The opportunity is there for him to earn an extended stay during a third stint with the club, with the two-time European Championship winner grateful to have been given a clean slate.
He added: “They have treated me very well from my first day here.
“It is like I had never left. The treatment from my teammates and me feeling comfortable is so important for my progression. I cannot really repay or reward what Villarreal have done for me.
“Not only when I was 18, but because they opened their doors after two years out and gave me their facilities without putting pressure on me.
“It is something that only this club can give me.”