The Spaniard has worked his way back to full fitness, but has revealed that he endured a few dark days when stuck on the sidelines
Hector Bellerin has admitted to experiencing mental health issues during his time stuck on the sidelines at Arsenal, with an injury nightmare in north London seeing the Spaniard turn to drink.
A knee injury followed by niggling hamstring issues plagued the 26-year-old right-back for most of 2019.
He was, having burst onto the scene as a teenager, unaccustomed to facing such torment and concedes that there were dark days in which he struggled to cope with being denied the opportunity to do his day job.
WHAT HAS BEEN SAID?
Bellerin told the Timbsy YouTube channel of his defeats while recovering from injury:
“IT WAS THE FIRST TIME I HAD GOTTEN INJURED LIKE THAT, AND I HAD MY FAMILY NEXT TO ME, BUT I WASN’T SURE WHAT THE FUTURE HELD”
“I talk about an experience when I came back and I wasn’t really training, and I started going out a lot, I started drinking and all this stuff and you know for a footballer that’s not what you’re supposed to say but it’s the truth.
“We have our issues, we have our mental health problems. And when football, which is basically your identity, gets taken out of you, we find it difficult.
“OBVIOUSLY LONDON IS A TOWN THAT OFFERS A LOT OF DISTRACTIONS AND IT’S REALLY EASY WHEN YOU DON’T FEEL YOU HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY – OBVIOUSLY I KNEW I HAD TO RECOVER, BUT I DIDN’T HAVE TO TRAIN OR PLAY – MY MIND KIND OF JUST WENT ELSEWHERE.”
He added: “I was lucky enough to have players and coaches who knew what I was doing, and they said ‘look Hector, that’s not the right way to do it’, and I felt so lucky about that.
“But also I’m not ashamed of it, I feel like it’s what happened to me and it’s just the way I was feeling and for me that was the best way of coping with my feelings, which is obviously not the best anyway, you don’t help anything, you just delay it.
“BUT THAT’S HOW I FELT LIKE DOING THEN, AND I THOUGHT I COULD GET AWAY WITH IT AND I LEARNED SO MUCH FROM IT. NOW THE LAST THING I DO WHEN I HAVE AN INJURY IS DRINK BECAUSE I KNOW HOW BAD THAT IS. SOMETIMES YOU JUST DON’T CARE OR IT’S DIFFICULT.”
THE BIGGER PICTURE
Belerin made just 19 appearances in 2018-19, after rupturing knee ligaments on January 9 of that year. He made just 23 appearances the following year.
He has returned to full fitness in 2020-21, but is no longer guaranteed a place in Mikel Arteta’s plans.
Calum Chambers has been used in a right-back berth on a regular basis, with Bellerin seeing 24 starts in the Premier League.
The Gunners have contractually bound him to the club until 2023, but it remains to be seen whether that agreement will be honored as various destinations are speculated for the next transfer window.