The Brazilian midfielder on his loneliness in England and his mission to start an academy in Brazil and help the youngsters to become human beings as well as footballers

Nine years have passed since Denílson realised something had to change. The loneliness was weighing him down, his football was suffering and he was too uncomfortable to talk about the sadness stopping him from shining for Arsenal. “When I left Arsenal it was because of personal reasons,” Denílson says. “My mind wasn’t in the right place.”

The Brazilian was living on his own, thousands of miles from his family, and he was desperate for a fresh start. Big things were expected from Denílson when he left São Paulo for Arsenal as an 18-year-old in 2006 but the midfielder’s homesickness made it impossible for him to realise his potential. He had nobody to lean on, even though Arsenal tried to help Denílson adjust in a strange new land, and the only way out of the darkness was to tell Arsène Wenger of his wish to return to Brazil at the end of the 2010-11 season.

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I want to help kids in my academy with everything I went through, to show them there will be hard times and good times

Related: Arsène Wenger: ‘All of us have competition. My toughest one was with myself’

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