Henrikh Mkhitaryan has opened up about how he fell out of love with football during his time at Manchester United.
The Armenian, signed in July 2016, had to wait until November before Jose Mourinho trusted him, and although he enjoyed a fantastic run of form in the Europa League, he never looked truly settled at Old Trafford.
Indeed, the 2017-18 campaign was a dour one for Mkhitaryan, whose performances deteriorated along with the patience of supporters ahead of him leaving for Arsenal in January 2018.
Speaking soon after his loan move to AS Roma (things did not get any better at Arsenal), Mkhitaryan revealed that he became estranged from the game itself during his time in England.
“Now I am in Rome and I focus on them,” he said. “This is not a step backwards as great football is played here. I wanted to change scenery and for me it is an opportunity to be seized.
“I have to enjoy playing football, no matter the place. In England, I no longer felt this pleasure. The messages after the two national matches made me happy, but now I have to concentrate on Rome.”
Form is one thing, but mood is quite another phenomenon for a footballer. You could argue that the same thing is happening with Alexis Sanchez: somehow more than just technically deficient, his very soul itself being starved of some vital essence, a lust for life.
Another good example is Steve Smith, the best batsman since wartime, who just last year lost love with the game, only to return this year in a blaze of glory.
Sometimes, it is not a matter of your actual skillset (Mkhitaryan is a very good player), but rather a matter of the headspace you find yourself in. If that is not right, everything else becomes irrelevant.