Wednesday, March 23, 2022

By PA Sport Staff

Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba says he has experienced depression “several times” in his career and first had issues during Jose Mourinho’s reign at Old Trafford.

The France international endured a difficult relationship with Mourinho and was stripped of United’s vice-captaincy in September 2018 before the Portuguese was sacked three months later.

He believes it is difficult for professional footballers to speak openly about mental health problems, stressing that receiving a high salary does not make players immune.

France international Paul Pogba won the World Cup in 2018
France international Paul Pogba won the World Cup in 2018 (Owen Humphreys/PA)

“Completely, and several times during my career,” replied Pogba, when asked if he had experienced depression in an interview with French newspaper Le Figaro.

“I have been through it, but we don’t talk about it. Sometimes you don’t even know you have depression, you just want to be isolated, to be all alone, these are the unmistakable signs.

“From a personal perspective, that started when I was with Jose Mourinho at Manchester.

“You ask yourself if there is something wrong with you, because you have never experienced these moments in your life.

“Of course we earn a lot of money and we don’t complain, really. But that does not prevent you from going through these moments in your life – like the whole world – which are more difficult than others.

 

“In football it is not acceptable but we are not superheroes, we are only human beings.”

Former Arsenal and France forward Thierry Henry recently expressed his view that there is insufficient discussion about the mental health of players.

World Cup winner Pogba concurred with Henry and used international team-mate Kylian Mbappe – whose penalty shoot-out miss led to France’s Euro 2020 exit against Switzerland – as an example.

“I agree entirely with Titi (Henry),” said Pogba, who re-joined United in 2016.

“Football is the most individual of team sports.

“One is judged every three days, we have to be good all the time, although we have worries like everyone, whether that’s with our partners, our coach, in everyday life.

Kylian Mbappe's penalty shoot-out miss led to France being eliminated from Euro 2020
Kylian Mbappe’s penalty shoot-out miss led to France being eliminated from Euro 2020 (Adam Davy/PA)

“Of course you will feel it in your body, in your head, and you can have a month, even a year, when you are not great. But you can’t say it – publicly anyway.

“Everything is inside your head, the mind controls everything and all top athletes go through these moments, but very few talk about it.

“Kylian, when he missed his penalty against Switzerland, nobody thought about him afterwards even though he received tonnes of criticism and awful things said about him.

“If you are not shielded mentally, you are dead in this sport. These tests will be the making of you, but you must not let your guard down.”

Pogba says he speaks with former players, including ex-Manchester United and France defender Patrice Evra, and a psychiatrist in order to alleviate depression.

Paul Pogba, right, regularly speaks with compatriot Patrice Evra, left
Pogba (right) regularly speaks with compatriot Patrice Evra (left) (Nick Potts/PA)

“I don’t want it to be the case that these negative moments make me forget all my achievements,” he said.

“But it isn’t necessarily easy and when I can’t manage by myself, I talk a lot with Tonton Pat (Evra) – former players who have experienced it, because they will understand immediately.

“My psychiatrist can be my best friend, my wife or my son. To speak, to be listened to, to get out all of this rage and this depression that is gnawing at you is obligatory for me.”

Pogba also revealed his 2018 World Cup winner’s medal was among the items stolen during a recent burglary at his home.

 

The incident occurred last Tuesday while he was playing in United’s Champions League match against Atletico Madrid and with his children asleep in their bedroom in the care of a nanny.

“There were jewels from my mother, my world champion medal,” Pogba said of the items taken.

“What scared me the most was that my two children were at home with the nanny during this incident.

“She overheard everything, called my wife and security, then locked herself with the boys in a room. For several days, she was shocked. The main thing is that my children are well.”

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