Arsenal’s Santi Cazorla says doctors told him he should be “satisfied” just to walk again after he contracted gangrene following an operation.
The 32-year-old Spain international played his last game in October 2016 and had ankle surgery two months later.
Despite eight operations, the wound did not heal and became infected.
Midfielder Cazorla told Marca the infection had “eaten” the Achilles tendon on his right leg, adding: “There was eight centimetres of it missing.”
Despite several successful antibiotic treatments, there were fears the former Villarreal and Malaga player could lose his leg because of a blood infection.
His last operation was a reconstruction of the Achilles tendon on 29 May, with doctors grafting skin from his left arm – featuring a tattoo – to his right ankle.
Cazorla has since been on an intense rehabilitation programme and says he expects to be playing again in the new year.
He says he receives messages almost every day from compatriots Andres Iniesta, David Silva and David Villa.
“Everything that I have gone through has not been as simple an injury as people have believed,” said Cazorla, who has won the European Championship twice and two FA Cups.
“They [the doctors] told me, if you get to walk again with your son in the garden, be satisfied.”
Cazorla’s injury problems started when he suffered a bone fissure in an international friendly against Chile in September 2013, and he became accustomed to playing with pain in his right foot.
He had knee surgery in December 2015, before surgery on a tendon injury in the plantar area a year later.