Danny Drinkwater opens up on his troubled spell and off-field problems before leaving Chelsea after five years contracted with the club.
The 32-year-old says he is relieved his nightmare is finally over after admitting he wasted some of what could have been his best years as a footballer.
Drinkwater, who was a key figure in Leicester City’s title-winning side during the 2015/16 season, signed to Chelsea in 2017 for £35m, on a five-year deal at Stamford Bridge.
However, the move flopped with Drinkwater, who was left on the sidelines for much of his time at the Blues and saw his career come to a halt, making just 23 appearances for the club, scoring just one goal.
‘I’m angry, not bitter.’ ❌
In his first TV interview in more than four years, Danny Drinkwater speaks exclusively to about his troubled five-year spell at Chelsea. 🎬pic.twitter.com/dmdz5slI4p
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) July 8, 2022
Those difficulties now look to be over for Drinkwater, who was released by Chelsea this summer, and speaking exclusively to Sky Sports News, he is just pleased he can now look forward as he looks to get his career back on track.
“I’m relieved, because it’s clear it wasn’t a situation that was good for me or the club,” Drinkwater replied, when asked about his Chelsea exit.
“I’m angry because of how it’s gone and how I was treated – not bitter though, what ifs. It was a long time coming.”
Drinkwater’s time at the Stamford Bridge outfit was perhaps best summed up by an exchange he had with then-Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri at the 11th hour of the 2018 summer transfer window.
Sky Sports report that, speaking through an acting translator, and assistant manager, Gianfranco Zola, Sarri told the midfielder he didn’t form part of his plans, which then led to Drinkwater with an hour to find a new club.
“It got to the last hour of the transfer window and [I] got pulled into the office, not expected at all,” Drinkwater explains. “‘Don’t think you’re going to be in our plans’. This is Sarri, being translated by Gianfranco. And I was like ‘what?’
“Sarri and I got on like a house on fire off the pitch. On the pitch, we were like chalk and cheese. I was like – ‘why are you telling me now? An hour before the window closes? I need time’. He replied, ‘No, no, we’ve got clubs abroad you can look at…’
“My reaction was – ‘No, I’ve got my young son. He is my priority’. So I decided to stay until January.”
When asked if he feels like he’s wasted the best five years of his career, Drinkwater added: “Yeah, it feels like ‘what have you thrown those five years away?’
“If you’d stayed at Leicester, if you didn’t get injured and if the club treated you differently. They’re all ifs. It’s frustrating, 100 per cent. Don’t think I’m still not burning about how it’s gone. I still kick myself for it. But on the other side, am I going to keep kicking myself, because I can’t change it.
“Can I help myself going forward? That’s why I went on loan, why I went to Aston Villa and Burnley on loan, which didn’t work, and going to Turkey at the age of 30 – I never thought I’d do that. It’s also the reason I dropped down to the Championship. I’ve been trying to do the right things. As I’ve tried doing them, something’s gone wrong.”
Drinkwater has admitted he struggled with his mental health, especially after being accused of an easy life and that he was happy to not play were thrown his way.
“That’s not true,” he said. “‘Living the life’ lasts about two weeks. You figure out you’re not involved in games, only training, so I could go out with the lads, I’m single, it’s great, I can do all this. I was loving it, but in the background, there’s always things that burn away.
“And as a person, if you’re not open enough to speak to the right people, it chews away at you. I didn’t learn that until further down the line. I was always like ‘I’m a big strong bloke, I can deal with this’.
“I was [suffering with mental health issues in 2019]. Nan passed, grandad passed, dad got diagnosed with Leukaemia, I lost my dog and was drink driving, which is just not me. I made a big mistake. I was also fighting for my son, which was going on constantly and takes its toll.
“I think when someone has too much to juggle, it can hit you. And it did hit me. And I was like ‘wow’, is this what it’s come to? And I was lost.”
He went on to say: “When football is going well, everything else seems easier to deal with, but when this isn’t going so well, everything seems so heavy. I definitely think that’s the lowest I’d been.”
When questioned whether he got help, he said: “I didn’t think I was depressed, but I saw the sports psychologist and if I hadn’t, I definitely think it could’ve gone that way because I was just fighting and fighting, and it wasn’t helping anybody.”
He has since been given another chance to reignite his career, spending last season in the second tier with Reading, making 32 appearances.
“I joined Reading, and I expected to be flying after eight games, but after 20 games, I was like – what’s happening here? I still didn’t feel properly fit and I can’t get my sharpness. I felt like I wasn’t really benefitting the team…and I was like ‘Wow, has it gone? What’s happened?’.
“Then you get a feeling back. The last part of last season, it was good. A new gaffer came in, and it was good. He helped me, and I felt I was helping the team. That’s probably the first time I’d enjoyed football for years.”
What about next season? Where will Drinkwater be playing his football?
“There are a few offers flying about,” he said. “It’s a weird time for football, especially when you’re free to the market.
“That last season helped me massively, getting all those games under my belt, and hopefully the second half of the season showed I’ve still got the ability and hunger to push myself.
“There are options, it’s just about the decision. I love winning, so it’s a difficult thing to let go at this age.”
In May 2022, Danny Drinkwater apologised to fans and said his time at the club was a “business deal gone wrong”.
“Me, the club and fans are hugely disappointed with the outcome there is no doubt about that,” he said.
Writing on Instagram, which expired on the 30th of June, he added: “Injuries, how I have been treated, mistakes I have made, issues of the pitch, lack of game time… the list of excuses could be endless.
“I’m going to look at positives over the past five years, I have played with great players, coached by awesome managers, worked with some brilliant staff, met some fantastic people, lived in some beautiful places, travelled the world and won some more silverware.
“Football’s a fantastic sport but this for both parties was a business move gone wrong, it’s as black and white as that.
“To the Chelsea fans I apologise for how this has turned out I would of loved for you to see me at my best in that shirt doing what I love.”
After signing for Chelsea he had loan spells at the likes of Burnley, Aston Villa, Turkish club Kasimpasa and Reading.
He also played a number of games for Chelsea’s under 23s, but even then there was trouble. Drinkwater featured in the Premier League 2 match against Spurs but was sent off late on after being on the other end of a hefty challenge from 16-year-old, Alfie Devine, in the 73rd minute.
The veteran midfielder really wasn’t happy with it and hit out at Devine as he ran past.
His actions sparked a mass brawl and, when the situation calmed down, both players were eventually sent off by the referee.
You can see why he was annoyed at the awful challenge by Devine but as a 30 year old, you’d expect him to know better, to act more professionally.
LOOOOOOL 30 year old Danny Drinkwater has just lashed out at 16 year old Alfie Devine in an under 23’s game 😭😭😭 pic.twitter.com/5izPcNKBVJ
— Matt (@THFCMW) December 14, 2020
He also had off-field problems, including a drink-driving ban, being assaulted in a nightclub and headbutted team-mate Jota while on loan at Villa.
The latter saw him fined two weeks’ wages for the attack on Jota and he couldn’t play for another three weeks.
He was also involved in an attack outside a Manchester nightclub during his spell at Burnley, an incident which saw him out for a few weeks.
A year ago, footage appeared on social media, appearing to show Danny Drinkwater headbutt a Scunthorpe player during a brawl on a night out.
The incident, which took place last month, saw him battered by thugs after he tried to get into bed with another Kgosi Ntlhe’s lover.
The Chelsea player ended up clashing with a group of six people at Manchester’s Chinawhite club.
It came after he was chucked out by security for talking to the woman and was then hit with a blunt object, leaving him with a black eye, swollen cheeks, bruises and cuts to his face, and a badly injured ankle.
Ntlhe threw two punches into Drinkwater’s direction, security split up the pair before the incident escalated. Take a look at the video of the fight below…
A source said: “It was incredibly nasty with blood everywhere.
“At one point he was curled up in a ball on the ground, as they repeatedly jumped up and down on his ankle and shouting, ‘Break his legs’.”
“They knew he was a Premier League star and it was his livelihood. There was blood everywhere, and it was all incredibly nasty.”
Scunthorpe United’s Kgosi Ntlhe asked him to leave his girlfriend alone and thats when the former England international hit out.
Danny also said back to: “I don’t care, mate, she’s coming home with me.”
A source said: “Danny had been celebrating a friend’s birthday and by his own admission got incredibly drunk.
“He knows he has let himself down big time. He was extremely drunk and to be honest doesn’t remember much of the incident. His mate had to fill him in the next day.
“Danny repeatedly tried to chat up a stunning girl in the club and wouldn’t leave her alone.
“He tried it on a few times before she told him to shut up by saying she was there with her boyfriend. He confronted Danny in the club, and punches were thrown.
“Both men were kicked out, and whilst Danny was outside things turned really ugly.
“Some other lads really started on him. After a series of verbal exchanges they knocked him to the ground. He was then hit with an object about the face and body. They were raining blows on him and jumping on his ankle.
“Danny is absolutely mortified now and realises he can no longer put himself in a position where these incidents happen, regardless of who is at fault.
“He had been focused on performing for Burnley and understands people will now question this. He is devastated. His injuries were significant. He looks a total mess.”
Danny Drinkwater & Scunthorpe United’s Kgosi Ntlhe having a fight in a rave…. Drinkwater gave him a dirty headbutt pic.twitter.com/6oYl8cfk9S
— threesixtytv (@threesixtytv) September 20, 2019
Twitter users had their say as Danny Drinkwater opens up on his troubled spell and off-field problems…
@davidjovanov: Given the huge wages he would have received it’s easy to not be angry or bitter
@cbj622w: Should never have chased the money at Chelsea, Leicester was a great club for him
@James_Hall92: The real conversation needs to be about that hair
@therealrash: Refreshing to see someone being open and honest good luck to him I wish him well
@StuartHarriso20: Drinkwater had numerous chances on loan at other clubs but caused fights on training grounds and couldn’t put the shift in, but was clearly happy to take the shilling for it. If he’s unhappy, it’s only him that can change it.
@lee_fie1d: I’m angry that he milked my club for every penny when for over 8 transfer windows he could of left at any point to be ‘happy’ but no he was ‘happy’ collecting it every month
@HolidaiSon: Nobody has to leave their job if they don’t want to.
@eriksunitedboys: How can you sympathize with him? Surely when signing he knew he wouldn’t be a first choice! And why wouldn’t he push to leave after year one when things were looking pear shaped with his career? Drinkwater took millions from the club and never complained when it mattered.
@grezza2120: Quite easy to sympathise if you listen to what he says and don’t just equate everything to money. Think the interviews refreshingly eloquent and honest.
@degenscum: Lesson to be learnt there. Bloke had a skin head and was good, got some dog shit poodle perm now and can’t get a game for Dog And Duck. Make of that what you will.
@kingsroadblue: I mean you was 120k a week for 5 years and you chose not to leave multiple times, don’t feel one big sorry
@alanharris2000: I think he needs to have a bigger look at himself too, all the clubs he went to ended up not selecting him for periods when he was fit. Has to be a reason for that, can’t all be chelseas fault
@keaano: Translation: I was enjoying the money at the time and thought it would eventually work out at Chelsea, but then I suddenly woke up at 32 and thought; fuck, what have I done!
@ellieq: Drives me insane when people think that just because someone is paid well, anything else can be easily pushed to the side. So many people replying on the basis of “you did nothing and got paid millions, what’s the problem?” Money doesn’t make you happy.
@quinner12344: Why are people trying to feel sorry for him. Man stole a living for 5 years on 120K a week and when he did go on loan had to be sent back due to discipline issues. Don’t feel sorry for him one bit. Also you make your own career choices pal.
@mitchfletcher91: Do feel sorry for him