Paul Pogba opens up on experiencing depression at Manchester United | Paul Pogba

Paul Pogba says he has experienced depression “several times” in his career and first had issues during José Mourinho’s time as Manchester United’s manager.

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.

Pogba 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.

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

The former Arsenal and France forward Thierry Henry recently said there was insufficient discussion about the mental health of players. Pogba concurred and used Kylian Mbappé – whose shootout miss led to France’s Euro 2020 exit against Switzerland – as an example.

“I agree entirely with Titi [Henry],” said Pogba. “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.

“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 tons 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 the former Manchester United and France defender Patrice Evra, to alleviate depression.

“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.”

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