Ashley Cole has revealed he came close to leaving Chelsea in the summer following his high-profile divorce but was persuaded to stay by Blues boss Carlo Ancelotti.
The 29-year-old left-back was strongly linked with a move to Real Madrid, where he would have been reunited with former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho, who signed him from Arsenal in 2006. England international Cole was keen on a fresh start following his split from pop star Cheryl Cole, but was ultimately talked round by his Italian boss.
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. There were times when it was really hard. I did think about leaving but, of course, when I spoke to Ancelotti he made it clear he wanted me to stay and loved having me around."
He continued: "The players didn't want me to go. I'm glad I stayed. A lot of people were saying,'You can't leave'.
"I've stayed now and I've taken the flak and hopefully I'm coming through it."
Cole turns 30 in December and hopes to play on at the top level for another four years, injuries permitting.
Cole added: "I would like to say four years - but you never know. I may end my career here.
"I've got good young players behind me at Chelsea and I hope one day they can get more games and one day take my place.
"But at the minute I'm just taking it year by year and seeing how the body is. I'm 29 but I feel like 35 or 40.
"It's hard getting up in the mornings but I hope to have another four years and hopefully win a few more medals and win the Champions League."
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