Arsenal midfielder Santi Cazorla says he may not be back playing until next year -- meaning it may not happen until after his contract with the club has expired.
Cazorla has had to start his rehab from scratch after undergoing a 10th operation on the heel problem that has sidelined him since October 2016.
Speaking to RTVE, he said he would be back next year "if things go well," but that may not be until after his Arsenal contract expires in the summer.
"There have been moments when I've thought about throwing in the towel," he said. "Many times I've said perhaps it's not worth continuing or this is as far as I go.
"If things go well, I will probably be next year playing again at the top level."
Cazorla underwent an initial operation to repair a tendon in his heel but suffered a number of setbacks, needing a skin graft and suffering an infection.
He said part of the problem was that he has had so many anti-inflammatory drugs during his career that the skin around his heel had weakened.
"The first surgery was risky -- the problem was my skin," he said. "I had too many corticosteroids during my career and the skin was quite deteriorated.
"I had the surgery, three weeks later I got the stitches removed and it didn't work. Then a skin graft was proposed and, after that, I got an infection in the operating room and that ate my tendon."