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LONDON -- Arsene Wenger says Arsenal midfielder Santi Cazorla has to start his rehab all over again after his latest foot surgery, pushing the Spaniard's return to the pitch well into the spring -- if he can come back at all.

Cazorla announced last week that he had undergone a ninth operation on the troublesome heel injury that has kept him sidelined for more than a year. Wenger said at the time he still hoped the midfielder could return in January, as originally scheduled, but that outlook has now changed.

"I sent him a message [after the surgery] and wished him well. He answered, 'Look I have to start again from zero,' basically. And it's very sad, honestly. What he has gone through, this guy, is unbelievable," Wenger said.

Santi Cazorla announced last week he'd undergone a ninth surgery on his foot.

"It's really, really sad. But unfortunately, he has to start again from zero. That means if all goes well, he has to wait until he can run. And after, when he starts to run, it will at least take six weeks to come back to training. When he will be able to start to run again, I don't know."

The latest setback increases the chances that Cazorla may never play for Arsenal again, as his contract expires next summer. Even if he does return to full training, it would still probably take several more weeks before he was ready to play a game.

But Wenger insisted he was still optimistic when asked if Cazorla will ever be back.

"I hope so," he said. "But certainly now, not before February."

Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.

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