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Ex-Man City star Michael Johnson talks about depression that left him retired at the age of 24

Former Manchester City star Michael Johnson – who was branded ‘better than Steven Gerrard and Michael Ballack’ at age 19 – opens up about the hell of depression, drinking and injuries that left him retired at age 24

  • Michael Johnson was a breakout star for Manchester City at the age of 19
  • But soon he was injured by injuries and mental health problems
  • Johnson made only five competitive appearances for City in five seasons
  • The now 32-year-old has revealed how and why his career deteriorated so quickly

Ex-Manchester City midfielder Michael Johnson has revealed that ‘playing football didn’t make him happy’ when he opened up for his short career, reviled by mental health and injury issues.

Johnson, who appeared on the scene at the age of 19 under Sven Goran-Eriksson in 2007, was described as the ‘most complete young player I’ve ever seen’ by former teammate Dietmar Hamann, who labeled him as a younger than Steven Gerrard and Michael Ballack.

But some serious injuries and depression led to Johnson being released from his contract at the age of 24 in late 2012 and in an interview with The athletic, the now 32-year-old speaks in depth about his rapid fall from grace.

Michael Johnson was a young star in Manchester City at the age of 19, but couldn't take it

Michael Johnson was a young star in Manchester City at the age of 19, but couldn’t take it

Johnson struggled with long-term injuries and depression and was released in late 2012

Johnson struggled with long-term injuries and depression and was released in late 2012

Johnson struggled with long-term injuries and depression and was released in late 2012

Steven Gerrard, according to Hamann, was not such a complete young midfielder than Michael Johnson

Steven Gerrard, according to Hamann, was not such a complete young midfielder than Michael Johnson

Hamann played with German star Ballack during their run to the final of the 2002 World Cup

Hamann played with German star Ballack during their run to the final of the 2002 World Cup

Johnson was a more talented youngster than Gerrard and Ballack, Dietmar Hamann says

“I went wrong with things. I had too much free time. I went out too often, went to night clubs or whatever, ”Johnson said.

“I went out and had a few drinks as a way to deal with my emotions, give myself a temporary high and feel good about myself for a short period of time.

“Perhaps people have interpreted that as ‘He doesn’t give a ***’, that kind of attitude. But the opposite was true. This is the problem with depression. If you are stuck in that mindset, you will find every way to try to make yourself feel better. ‘

Although Johnson admits he was a talented footballer, who made memorable goals against Derby County and Aston Villa in a breakthrough in the 2007-08 season, he struggled to get the spotlight among professional football at the highest level.

After getting a five-year contract just after Abu Dhabi United Group took over the club in the summer of 2008, Johnson suffered a stomach injury and only made four competitive appearances for City’s first team in its last five seasons.

Midfielder Johnson (R) has played only four times in his last five seasons with Manchester City

Midfielder Johnson (R) has played only four times in his last five seasons with Manchester City

Midfielder Johnson (R) has played only four times in his last five seasons with Manchester City

Ex-teammate Hamann (C) says Johnson was the most complete young player he'd ever seen

Ex-teammate Hamann (C) says Johnson was the most complete young player he'd ever seen

Ex-teammate Hamann (C) says Johnson was the most complete young player he’d ever seen

“Playing football didn’t make me happy,” added Johnson. “I thought it was going to go, that’s why I put all my energy into it. But it was not.

“I was made to play football. But my mind wouldn’t let me back then. And if it was a choice between a) getting out of football early and sorting myself out, like I did, or b) continuing to play football but not picking myself out, I would choose the former all day. ‘

Now in a much more stable frame of mind with a wife and daughter, and trading American cars with his father, Johnson still remains one of the greatest what-if stories of English football in the last 15 years.

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