A Barcelona surgeon has revealed that striker David Villa risked amputation after breaking his leg during the 2011 Club World Cup.
Dr Ramon Cugat treated Villa after he landed awkwardly during Barcelona's win over Al Sadd last year and the Spaniard could have lost his leg on the flight back from Japan.
"Big pressure changes like that at eight, 10 or 12 thousand metres take a big toll," Dr Cugat told La Sexta. "They can lead to severe injuries, or even cause you to lose a limb."
Villa rejoined the Barcelona squad in August after an extended period on the sidelines and Dr Cugat believes Tito Vilanova's decision not to rush him back into the squad has helped him return to career best form.
"There's been a craftsman who has masterminded the issue - Tito Vilanova, who has been easing him back in. He's been very smart," Dr Cugat said. "Villa has [now] overcome his ordeal.
"David Villa is in better shape now than he was in the season before his injury."