Ashley Cole admits he was close to leaving Chelsea in the close-season following his high-profile divorce from his pop star wife.
The England defender was keen on a fresh start away from England following his acrimonious split and a move to Real Madrid was a possible escape route.
But Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti persuaded the left-back to remain at Stamford Bridge and he has been revitalised this season.
Cole, quoted in Daily Star Sunday, said: "It was hard for me in my head. It wasn't just about the football, it was more my brain and it was getting too much for me. I've stayed now and I've taken the flak and hopefully I'm coming through it."