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After 535 days away from the game battling cancer David Brooks returned to Premier League action for Bournemouth in an emotional moment for the player, fans and football as a whole.

Although he could not prevent Bournemouth from losing and slipping further into the relegation quagmire, his story inspired everyone and even had opposition fans cheering him onto the field of play.

Health is more important than football, and as Chelsea fans, it was great to hear when a player from the opposition comes back from adversity and plays again.

Here we celebrate the incredible journeys of five footballers who have spent time away from the game due to cancer and returned to the game.

Eric Abidal

The former Barcelona and French national team defender was diagnosed with liver cancer in March 2011. After surgery, he made an incredible return to football just two months later, playing in the UEFA Champions League final, which Barcelona won.

In 2012, Abidal underwent a liver transplant and spent over a year recovering. In July 2013, he returned to professional football, signing with AS Monaco.

Jonas Gutierrez

Argentinian winger Jonas Gutierrez, known for his time at Newcastle United, was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2013. After undergoing surgery and chemotherapy, Gutierrez remarkably returned to the pitch in 2015.

In his first season back, Gutierrez played a pivotal role in helping Newcastle avoid relegation, scoring a crucial goal in the season’s final match.

Joe Thompson

Whilst not a household name English midfielder Joe Thompson has one of the best comeback stories in the game. Thompson was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2013 and fully recovered after undergoing chemotherapy. Tragically, in 2017, cancer returned, and Thompson faced yet another battle for his life.

Against all odds, Thompson defeated cancer for a second time and made a sensational return to football in League One. In May 2018, he scored the decisive goal for Rochdale to keep them up on the last day of the season.

Santi Cazorla

Former Arsenal playmaker Santi Cazorla faced a devastating setback when he was diagnosed with rare skin cancer in 2016. The diagnosis came after a series of injury troubles and surgeries, which had already put his football career at risk.

Cazorla underwent extensive treatment, including multiple surgeries, and defied the odds by making an incredible comeback in 2018 when he signed for Villarreal. The gifted midfielder continues to defy the odds and is still playing at the age of 38.

David Brooks

Wales winger David Brooks returned to action for the first time since his cancer treatment as a substitute for Bournemouth in their 3-0 Premier League defeat at Aston Villa. Brooks was diagnosed with Stage 2 Hodgkin lymphoma in October 2021 and in May 2022 said he was “cancer-free”.

The 25-year-old came on for Adam Smith in the 79th minute at Villa Park for his first appearance in 536 days. Bournemouth boss Gary O’Neil said Brooks’ return was “huge for everybody” at the club. Brooks, who has won 21 caps for Wales and featured three times at Euro 2020, last played for Bournemouth against Peterborough on 29 September 2021.


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