Jan Vertonghen opens up on mental health issues after head injury

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Jan Vertonghen opens up on mental health issues after head injury
Photo: Getty Images

Jan Vertonghen has spoken openly about his struggles with mental health in the aftermath of a head injury during his time at Tottenham Hotspur.

The 36-year-old suffered a nasty head injury in the first leg of a Champions League semi-final against Ajax Amsterdam back in 2019, when he clashed with teammate Toby Alderweireld and opponent's keeper André Onana.

The incident left Vertonghen with concussion and post-concussion syndrome, which impacted his mental well-being.

Discussing the incident and the subsequent fallout of that on the Mid Mid podcast, the former Spurs skipper said:

I had a nosebleed and all the trimmings. But I remember very well that I didn't feel 100 percent before that match.

A lot had happened in that time. The combination of that huge blow and not feeling well meant that I would suffer for another nine months.

I was so shaky on my legs in the return match one week later.

The incident took its toll on Vertonghen, who subsequently played the final against Liverpool whilst desperate for the game to end.

Vertonghen believes his struggles for form the following season at Tottenham may have been caused by the after effects of the concussion.

That was survival. I spent the entire final counting down to the 90th minute. On the way back to the hotel I fell asleep on the players' bus.

I felt really bad during that period, the link to the collision with Alderweireld and Onana was quickly made.

I went to almost all specialists, but no explanation was found.

I couldn't go to a restaurant. I tried it once and had to leave after 10 minutes. I couldn't tolerate crowds, I fell asleep anywhere. Normally I never sleep on the road, during that period it happened everywhere.

I felt there was more to it and kept talking about it. Now I am convinced that it was a mental-psychological problem.

Now when I see photos from that time, I immediately see that something was wrong. That my eyes were different. I was also often "down".

As his performances declined in his final season at the club, including being taken off at half-time of a 2-2 draw away to Norwich City, Vertonghen was worried that discussing his issue as a mental health problem could impact his career.

The doctor's tests showed there was no physical problem, everything was fine. But running exercises in preparation did not work. I had no tangible injury, "man up" was kind of the mentality.

My contract was expiring, if I said I had mental problems, I didn't know what that would mean for other clubs.

You also see that I played very bad matches that year. Norwich and Chelsea away, those are matches I remember very well. I headed next to balls and stuff.

I saw [José] Mourinho - then-coach at Tottenham - look at half-time with a "you stay in" [the dressing-room] look, and I was also happy that I was substituted.

It was all very strange. I didn't realise at the time that I might have a mental problem.

Vertonghen was a key component of one of the most successful Tottenham sides in recent memory, forming the heart of the defence for Mauricio Pochettino's team alongside Alderweireld.

The Belgian centre-half was a leader on and off the field for Spurs, and remains a firm favourite among the supporters of the North London club to this day.

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