Santi Cazorla has agreed to join Al Sadd following the expiration of his Villarreal contract.

The 35-year-old midfielder will soon head to Doha and complete the formalities of the deal before joining the team coached by former Spain team-mate Xavi, alongside whom he won two European Championships.

Cazorla spent close to two years on the sidelines from October 2016, during which he feared he would have to have his foot amputated due to an infection following ankle surgery.

However, he returned to Villarreal from Arsenal and made 86 appearances over the past two seasons, earning a recall to the Spain squad in June 2019, and will continue his career in Qatar.

"We have reached an agreement with Santi Cazorla," a tweet posted by Al Sadd read.

"He will reach Doha soon to complete the formalities and join the team. Welcome to Al Sadd, Santi!

"We wish you all the best and that we can get many titles together. Thank you very much."

Xavi signed a one-year contract extension with Al Sadd in July, despite links to the Barcelona job.

The 40-year-old took charge of the team last year and led them to the Qatari Super Cup and Qatar Cup in his first season at the helm.

Santi Cazorla said Villarreal will always be his "home" after the veteran star bid farewell to the LaLiga club amid links to Xavi's Al-Sadd in Qatar.

Cazorla and long-serving captain Bruno Soriano played their final match for Villarreal in a 4-0 final-round rout of Eibar on Sunday.

The 35-year-old Cazorla, who has made a big impact in his third spell with Villarreal after returning from a serious Achilles injury in 2018 following 636 days on the sidelines, has been linked with a move to Al-Sadd – coached by former Barcelona skipper Xavi.

And former Arsenal playmaker Cazorla bowed out on a winning note with Villareal, providing the assist for Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa's 71st-minute opener at home to Eibar.

Cazorla ended the 2019-20 campaign with 11 goals and 10 assists as Villareal finished fifth in LaLiga to qualify for the Europa League.

"I'm eternally grateful to this club and the fans for having opened the doors to me and for all the love they've shown me for so long," Cazorla, who was replaced in the 82nd minute, said via the club's website.

"I've had a great time, but it's time to end this stage of my career. It's a decision I've thought about a lot. Every game I find it harder to give 100 per cent and I had to be honest with myself and the club.

"I feel that this club is inside me. It isn't a goodbye, it's a 'we'll meet again', because Villarreal CF will always be my home."

Bruno also made an emotional swansong on the final day of the season at Madrigal, with the 36-year-old retiring after more than 300 appearances for Villarreal.

The one-club player returned to the field in June following more than three years on the sidelines due to two operations and a painful recovery.

"I've thought about it a lot and I've taken this tough decision. I've realised that my body is no longer able to give 100 per cent and play 90 minutes week in, week out, which is what I've always wanted to do. That's why I've taken the decision to end my career," Bruno said.

"This club is part of my life and that doesn't stop here. I am going to continue coming to cheer on the team every Sunday, alongside the rest of the fans and those who love this club."

Villarreal have confirmed Santi Cazorla will leave the LaLiga club and Bruno Soriano is to retire after Sunday's clash with Elbar.

Cazorla has made a big impact in his third spell with the Yellow Submarine since returning in 2018 after a serious Achilles injury.

The 35-year-old playmaker, who did not play for 636 days prior to his comeback two years ago, has scored 11 goals and provided nine assists in the Spanish top flight this season.

Cazorla will play his last game for the club this weekend, though, and has been linked with a move to Qatari club Al Sadd - coached by former Barcelona captain Xavi.

It has also been reported that Cazorla could take up a coaching role with Arsenal, but a switch to Qatar looks more likely for a player who earned a Spain recall last year.

Cazorla told Villarreal TV ahead of his final appearance: "Villarreal have given me everything. When I was 18, they gave me all the confidence.

"A guy from Oviedo who was unknown almost for everyone."

Long-serving skipper Soriano will make an emotional swansong on the final day of the season at El Madrigal.

The 36-year-old, a one-club man, has made over 300 appearances for Villarreal since making his debut 14 years ago.

"What I am going to be, for now, it is being the fan number one of Villarreal. Villarreal will be part of my life forever." he said.

The coronavirus crisis continues to challenge decision-makers in football's corridors of power and could soon leave some of the game's biggest clubs facing contract conundrums.

Manchester United, Milan and Paris Saint-Germain are among the major European outfits who are due to farewell high-profile players when free agency comes into force on June 30.

Domestic leagues across the world appear increasingly likely to run beyond that deadline, meaning sides up and down the divisions could be forced to renegotiate deals beyond the typical expiry date.

It remains to be seen how governing bodies will approach the unfamiliar territory but Edinson Cavani, Mario Gotze and Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be watching closely like dozens more across Europe's top five leagues.

These are the stars and solid supporting cast members whose contract situations are worth monitoring in England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

LaLiga

Athletic Bilbao: Aritz Aduriz (retiring), Benat, Mikel San Jose
Atletico Madrid: Antonio Adan
Espanyol: Ander Iturraspe
Granada: Roberto Soldado
Real Valladolid: Hatem Ben Arfa
Sevilla: Ever Banega (joining Al Shabab at end of contract), Nolito
Valencia: Ezequiel Garay
Villarreal: Santi Cazorla 

Premier League

Bournemouth: Ryan Fraser
Burnley: Joe Hart
Chelsea: Olivier Giroud, Pedro, Willian
Liverpool: Adam Lallana, Nathaniel Clyne
Manchester City: David Silva (confirmed he will leave at end of contract)
Manchester United: Nemanja Matic, Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Odion Ighalo (loan ends)
Newcastle United: Matty Longstaff
Tottenham: Jan Vertonghen, Japhet Tanganga

Serie A

Atalanta: Jose Luis Palomino
Hellas Verona: Fabio Borini
Inter: Ashley Young
Juventus: Gianluigi Buffon
Milan: Lucas Biglia, Giacomo Bonaventura, Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Napoli: Jose Callejon, Dries Mertens

Bundesliga

Bayer Leverkusen: Charles Aranguiz
Borussia Dortmund: Mario Gotze, Lukasz Piszczek
Hertha Berlin: Salomon Kalou
Schalke: Benjamin Stambouli
Wolfsburg: Robin Knoche

Ligue 1

Lille: Loic Remy
Monaco: Jemerson
Nice: Walter Benitez, Arnaud Lusamba
Paris Saint-Germain: Edinson Cavani, Thomas Meunier, Tanguy Kouassi, Layvin Kurzawa, Thiago Silva

Santi Cazorla admits he is excited by the prospect of an unforeseen shot at tournament glory with Spain as he targets a third European Championship triumph.

The days of Cazorla patrolling midfield with the national team looked to have ended when his Arsenal career stuttered to a sorry and injury-hit end.

Serious Achilles and ankle trouble led to gangrene and worries that Cazorla might even need a foot amputation, and he left Arsenal at the end of the 2017-18 season with doubts over what would be left of his playing days.

Cazorla snatched the chance to train with Villarreal and has not looked back, impressing last season before stepping up a level this term, scoring 12 goals from midfield already.

And Spain have come calling again, unable to resist the revitalised playmaker who has got Villarreal ticking after almost four years in the international wilderness.

After helping Spain to their Euro 2008 and Euro 2012 victories, Cazorla incredibly has another chance of silverware, and of adding to his 81 caps.

The 35-year-old is philosophical, though, about his chances and said he would not be disappointed to miss out on the tournament if Luis Enrique struggles to accommodate him.

"Not disappointing because I know my age and I know the players that are there. But yes, it's true that I've got excited about being there," Cazorla said.

"It was something that I'd written off when I returned to football; even the day that they called me up again I knew it was a reward and without too many expectations of staying in the squad.

"But I've kept playing at Villarreal and the national coaches have confidence in me and this has excited me."

Cazorla sees Spain as contenders for Euro 2020, although the days of their dominance have passed. The halcyon era of Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas and co belongs in Spain's history, yet Cazorla remains very much in the team's present.

He sees no need to pitch teams from one era against those from another.

"We always have to compare in this country and that's a mistake because any national team is losing [in that debate]," Cazorla told Marca.

"We have to leave people alone because players are coming through with promising futures. I think that this summer, there are options to compete to win the Euros because it's very even between various teams and Spain are there."

Cazorla said leaving Arsenal in the way he did, without being able to sign off in style on the pitch, stuck in his craw, describing that as "a big regret that I don't know if I will get over".

He is relieved to be playing again, but wary his body has limits, saying he has yet to consider his club future beyond this season with his contract up for renewal.

"Right now, I'm happy," he said, "but I notice my age; the injury is there and it's getting more difficult. I'm not planning anything right now, but it's clear that playing in Europe is a plus for any player. I will decide in the summer."

Serie A strikers Romelu Lukaku and Ciro Immobile lead the line in FIFA Ultimate Team's latest Team of the Week.

Lukaku and Immobile are two of the form front men in European football, and the duo have earned recognition following their latest goalscoring exploits.

Inter striker Lukaku grabbed both goals in a 2-0 away win at Udinese on Sunday.

And Immobile matched that haul as Lazio thrashed SPAL 5-1, the Italy international's brace taking his 2019-20 league tally to 25 already.

The duo are far from the only big names in this week's selection, however, with Roberto Firmino, Jadon Sancho and Hugo Lloris also among the new in-form cards.

Find the full squad below.

TEAM OF THE WEEK

GK: Hugo Lloris (Tottenham) - 89

CB: Matthijs de Ligt (Piemonte Calcio/Juventus) - 87

LB: Alex Telles (Porto) - 87

CB: Yerry Mina (Everton) - 84

CM: Daniel Parejo (Valencia) - 88

RM: Angel Di Maria (Paris Saint-Germain) - 88

CAM: Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund) - 87

CM: Santi Cazorla (Villarreal) - 86

CF: Roberto Firmino (Liverpool) - 88

ST: Ciro Immobile (Lazio) - 90

ST: Romelu Lukaku (Inter) - 88

SUBSTITUTES

GK: Steve Mandanda (Marseille) - 83

CB: Kaan Ayhan (Fortuna Dusseldorf) - 81

RM: Robert Snodgrass (West Ham) - 81

ST: Francesco Caputo (Sassuolo) - 84

RW: Daniel Ginczek (Wolfsburg) - 82

ST: Kasper Dolberg (Nice) - 81

LW: Oussama Idrissi (AZ) - 81

RESERVES

CM: Alexandru Maxim (Gaziantep) - 79

CM: Alexandru Cicaldau (Universitatea Craiova) - 78

LM: Ahmet Engin (Duisburg) - 76

LM: Nathan Thomas (Carlisle United) - 74

LW: Said Benrahma (Brentford) - 80

Spain coach Robert Moreno hailed Santi Cazorla as "exceptional" after the experienced midfielder scored his first international goal in four years.

Villarreal playmaker Cazorla has worked his way back into the Spain reckoning following his arduous and well-documented injury woes and was on target in the 7-0 Euro 2020 qualifying thrashing of Malta in Cadiz.

It was an evening in which Spain's old guard proved their worth amid debut goals for Pau Torres and Dani Olmo, with Jesus Navas, Raul Albiol and Sergio Ramos all impressing – a fact not lost on Robert Moreno.

"What Santi's achieving, his form, after what he went through for nearly three years with his terrible injury problems, is exceptional," said the coach.

"Without guys like him and Raul and Sergio it's hard to win tournament semi-finals and finals.

"The contribution of people like Santi, Sergio and Raul – the generation who have already won tournaments – is incalculable. 

"They have such quality and it's hard to win tournaments without their kind of experience. They've accumulated things that they not only contribute in performance but transmit to others."

Cazorla's strike followed Alvaro Morata's opener before the floodgates opened in the second half with Torres and Olmo's efforts sandwiching Pablo Sarabia's strike, before Gerard Moreno and Navas rounded out the win.

Robert Moreno was impressed with the way his side kept the pressure on their vastly outclassed opponents.

"The gap between 'big' international sides and so-called lesser nations is closing – it's very equal now across the board," he added. 

"We worked really hard on opening things up, on finishing, because we knew we wouldn't have it easy. Playing well like this and scoring lots of goals is always very welcome.

"The easiest thing in the world would have been for my players to accept three or four-nil and drop their level. But we hit seven and could easily have scored 10 – that says very good things about their mentality.

"I note that the players are remembering what I told them the last time we were together and the time before that. We are apart for weeks or months but the momentum is growing so that they put into practice what I asked of them previously. That's good.

"We think it's pretty historic that both Pau [Torres] and Dani [Olmo] both came on and scored with their first touch. It's been decades since two subs came on and scored on their debuts."

Santi Cazorla scored his first Spain goal for four years as two debutants also got on the scoresheet in a 7-0 thrashing of Malta in Euro 2020 qualifying on Friday.

The Villarreal veteran struck 41 minutes in after Alvaro Morata had put Robert Moreno's men ahead, before the floodgates opened in the second half at Estadio Ramon de Carranza.

Moreno made seven changes to the side that drew 1-1 with Sweden last time out and handed debuts to Pau Torres and Dani Olmo in the second half, each of whom repaid him with a goal.

A fine strike from Pablo Sarabia, a simple finish for the impressive Gerard Moreno and a late Jesus Navas effort secured a resounding victory in Cadiz for a Spain side who were already assured of their place at next year's finals.

Morata scored his seventh goal in as many games for club and country with 23 minutes gone, bundling a finish beyond goalkeeper Henry Bonello after Gerard Moreno turned a loose ball goalwards.

It was Morata who prevented Spain doubling their lead 27 minutes in, the striker judged to be interfering with play from an offside position when Moreno blasted home the rebound after a brilliant Bonello save denied Sergio Ramos.

Moreno somehow failed to turn Sarabia's cross into an unguarded net, but the second goal did come - and in some style - four minutes before the break. Cazorla gathered Moreno's first-time pass and slotted the ball in off the left-hand post for his first international goal since 2015.

Cazorla went off to a standing ovation eight minutes after the restart as Spain set about securing the result, with only a brilliant clearance off the line from Jonathan Caruana denying Sarabia.

Spain ended the match as a contest with two goals in the space of a minute, Torres chesting the ball in from Paco Alcacer's flick-on from a corner before Sarabia arrowed a left-footed finish into the top-right corner from Moreno's lay-off.

Olmo became the second debutant to get on the scoresheet, rounding the goalkeeper before slotting home after the Malta defence was split by Thiago's pass, and Moreno at last got his goal when he tapped in Juan Bernat's cut-back.

Navas capped a fine outing for Spain with the goal of the game five minutes from time, sending a dipping strike over the stranded Bonello from 25 yards out.

 

What does it mean? Spain's old guard give Moreno food for thought

Raul Albiol, Navas and Cazorla might have a combined age of 101, but they started this game entirely on merit given their club form.

While this was as routine as qualifying matches get, none of the three looked out of place and could all hope to be part of the final squad for next year's tournament.

Marvellous Moreno makes amends for miss

He will likely never know quite how he missed his first-half chance, but Moreno made up for it with three assists and a second-half tap-in in a lively performance down the Spain right.

Bonello bamboozled

His defence did not exactly help him in the second half, but neither did Bonello cover himself in glory, particularly with his positioning for Navas' goal.

What's next?

Spain conclude Euro 2020 qualifying against Romania in Madrid on Monday, when Malta host Norway.

Giuseppe Rossi has hailed Santi Cazorla as an "inspiration" as the former Villarreal and Manchester United striker targets a return to elite-level football.

Rossi, 32, is back training with his old club Villarreal six years after leaving Spain to join Serie A side Fiorentina.

The 30-cap Italy international has been a free agent since he left Genoa at the end of 2017-18, having escaped a ban after testing positive for dorzolamide - a banned substance commonly found in eye drops that Rossi and his legal team insisted was consumed accidentally.

Since then, he has spent time training with United and recently returned to Villarreal to try to build up match fitness, with a view to playing at the highest level again.

Rossi's career has been blighted by serious knee injuries, but he enjoyed his most productive spell with Villarreal, scoring 82 times to become the club's all-time leading goalscorer.

Cazorla has enjoyed a renaissance since returning to Villarreal last year after an Achilles infection left him fearing he may never walk again, and Rossi hopes to emulate his former team-mate's comeback.

"When we were playing years ago, we never thought we would have these situations in our careers. But it happens, it's all part of the sport, right?" Rossi told Omnisport, courtesy of LaLiga.

"It's how you come back, it's the fight that you put into the recovery, wanting to get back to your levels of before. I've been down, and I came back up; I've been down again, and I've always come back up.

"It's the same thing with Santi. He's back to playing at these high levels, playing with the national team also, so he's definitely an inspiration to me, also to all the young players and the players that are on this team.

"It's crazy, the parallels that we have, so of course it's always great to see him back, to see him playing at this level."

Like Cazorla, Rossi is determined not to allow his football career to be halted early by injuries, even though he has not played a competitive match since May last year.

"It's a big psychological thing when you get injured," he said. "Are you able to be patient, are you able to learn, are you able to put in the work and the time to get back to certain playing styles and certain levels?

"Sometimes, it's hard. Sometimes, people give up. We've seen that in the past, not only in football but in other sports. But that's not the case with me. It's something I'll never do. I love this game too much, I work too hard, I've sacrificed too much. I cannot give up on this sport."

Rossi has been made to feel at home since coming back to Villarreal, saying: "It feels great. It's a place where I grew up as a player; it's a place where I grew up as a man.

"I had five beautiful years with them, we accomplished a lot together, and it's just great being back here, seeing people and just having fun on the pitch again.

"Each day, I'm getting more match fit, getting used to the pace. I'm just trying to get fit, trying to show that I'm ready to play at whatever level, and just continue to have fun. I'm still young, I'm still hungry. I've done a lot in this sport and I'm very happy, but I'm still hungry, I still want more. I still want to show that I can come back and play at these levels."

It remains to be seen whether Rossi will get the chance to play in LaLiga once more, but he still considers Spain's top flight to be the pinnacle.

"For me, LaLiga is the essence of football," he added. "It's fun watching the technical ability of a player. It's very attacking, there's a lot more space, therefore there's much more excitement in games.

"Four, five years, ago, they thought LaLiga was only a two-team league. Today, you have six, seven teams all mixed up. It's exciting."

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