Danny Drinkwater Bids Farewell: A Journey From Leicester’s Heights to the Limbo
When the lights of fame dim, they can leave one navigating through the shadows of their own expectations. This seems to be the sentiment echoing from Danny Drinkwater, the once-celebrated hero of Leicester City’s Premier League win in 2016, who has decided to hang up his boots at 33.
A Meteoric Rise with Leicester
Drinkwater’s story is one filled with highs and lows. Rising from the academy ranks at Manchester United, he took a detour to Leicester in 2012 without ever gracing the senior side for Sir Alex Ferguson. Yet, it was in the homey confines of the King Power Stadium that Drinkwater found his footballing zenith.
By 2014, he was integral in guiding Leicester to a Premier League promotion, and come 2016, under the tutelage of Claudio Ranieri (affectionately labelled “Grandad” by Drinkwater), he played a crucial role in scripting a tale that the football world will recount for generations.
The Chelsea Chapter: Potential Unfulfilled
After the highs of Leicester, a £35m move to Chelsea in 2017 promised a new chapter in Drinkwater’s narrative. Yet, the pages turned with less flair and more despair. With a meagre 22 appearances in his debut season and subsequent loan spells at clubs including Burnley, Aston Villa, Kasimpasa, and Reading, the journey seemed like a drifting ship lost in a vast ocean.
Recalling his Chelsea tenure to The High Performance Podcast, Drinkwater’s words were candid: “As a whole it was garbage, but if you break it down I had some really good times.” An openness to an Arabian adventure was also once on the cards, but that chapter remained unwritten.
Personal Battles: The Struggle Beyond The Pitch
It wasn’t just the on-field performances that burdened Drinkwater. Off the pitch, he confronted challenges that seemed insurmountable at times: a drink-driving ban, a nightclub brawl, and a regrettable incident with team-mate Jota during a loan spell at Villa.
Quoting from the depths of these experiences, he remarked, “Anyone who thinks earning a good amount of money will solve all of your problems is not true at all.” It’s a grim reminder that fame and wealth aren’t antidotes to mental struggles. “Mental health is more important than physical. It was the darkest I’d ever felt and it was like I was drowning and forgotten how to swim.”
In Reflection: The Final Decision
The dilemma of being “in limbo” weighed heavily on Drinkwater. His words paint a poignant picture: “I’ve been wanting to play but not getting the opportunity to play at a standard or a level where I felt valued.” His love for the sport was evident, but there’s a difference between loving the game and feeling valued in it.
It’s a bitter pill for any athlete, especially one who’s tasted the pinnacle of success. As he retreats from the game, football fans will remember the Danny Drinkwater who conquered the Premier League with Leicester and hope that his future, away from the limelight, grants him the peace he seeks.