I went to Germany for some tests, and that’s when it started. I had the Epstein-Barr virus. A few months later, things got worse. The virus led to Guillain-Barré syndrome. This is something that affects the nervous system and can attack muscles all over your body.
Nobody could tell me how long it would take to get better. If you have a broken leg, you know it’s six months, plus or minus one or two.
But the problem with this is that it changes. I was a different person to the next one – he was lying there for two years. I was only sitting in a wheelchair for five weeks.
It was a very tough period, though. In this moment, you’d give everything away – all your money, all your success – just to come back healthy.
“As a single man, England is a paradise city. If you go out, it’s very easy to do stupid things. I had to leave the country”
The experience changed a bit inside me. After this, I wasn’t the same person as before. I saw how quickly life can change, so I started to enjoy life. If you want to enjoy life and also want to be a professional footballer, this is not the best combination.
I was going out a lot. Drinking a lot. Smoking a lot. I wasn’t professional. Also, in this time I got divorced from my first wife, so had many private problems as well.
If you want to come back at the highest level, you need discipline. But, for one or two years, I couldn’t show this because I was living. I was really living.
It was a problem for Liverpool. They saw me, a top professional who had played 60 games from 63 games, going out drinking and smoking. For them, too, it was very difficult. It took probably two and a half years for me to get back to being a bit more normal, but for me it was clear – if I want to come back to 100 per cent professional, then I have to leave the country.