Madrid: Andres Iniesta has described his struggle with depression while playing for Barcelona, which his mother says was a “bottomless pit” that caused her 25-year-old son to ask to sleep with his parents.
Iniesta recalls his experience with the illness in a Rakuten TV documentary, ‘Andres Iniesta - The Unexpected Hero’, which was released on Thursday and covers his move to Japanese side Vissel Kobe in 2018.
After winning the Champions League under Pep Guardiola in 2009, Iniesta was battling injury and then hit by the death of his friend Dani Jarque, the 26-year-old Espanyol defender who suffered a heart attack.
“The days pass and you realise you’re not improving, you don’t feel good, you’re not yourself. Everything clouds over and goes dark,” Iniesta said.
On Jarque’s death, Iniesta added: “That was like a body blow, something powerful that knocked me down again and I was pretty low, clearly because I wasn’t very well.”
Iniesta’s depression is described by those closest to him, including his mother Maria Lujan and father Jose Antonio.
They’re (footballers) people and this is a very human thing which affects millions of people around the world. They have to know we are there for them
“I noticed he wasn’t well one night when we were sleeping downstairs and he came down and said, ‘mum can I sleep here with you?’” Maria said. “Then the world came down on my head.”
Jose Antonio said: “Our 25 year-old son coming down at midnight and wanting to sleep with his parents means he can’t be well. He said, ‘I’m not well dad’. I said, ‘what’s wrong?’ ‘I don’t know, I don’t feel well.”
Iniesta’s father admitted he thought his son might have to take a break from football. “At one stage I thought he would have to stop because the most important thing was him,” said Jose Antonio.
Iniesta began having sessions with psychologist Inma Puig, who said the Spaniard’s recovery owed much to those around him, including Guardiola.
“Guardiola said this is the first time I’ve been in this situation as a coach,” said Puig. “I remember he said, ‘the most important thing now is Andres, the person not the player’.”
“They’re people and this is a very human thing which affects millions of people around the world,” said Guardiola. “They have to know we are there for them.”
“Guardiola tried to get him out of that bottomless pit he was in,” said Iniesta’s mother Maria.
Iniesta came through Barcelona’s La Masia academy and went on to win nine La Liga titles and four Champions Leagues with the club. He also lifted the World Cup with Spain in 2010, after scoring the winning goal against the Netherlands in the final.
Despite receiving a hero’s farewell from Barca, Iniesta hinted his relationship with the board influenced his decision to go to Japan.
“People at the club never imagined I could leave,” Iniesta said. “It’s like everything, in relationships if you don’t discuss things at the right time there comes a time when there’s no way back.”