Chelsea forward Gonzalo Higuain has said he is at a stage in his life when he is immune to criticism and regrets having felt like a prisoner because of it earlier in his career.
Higuain has received criticism for failure to help Argentina win a major trophy, while he also left Napoli to join arch-rivals Juventus in 2016.
“I always regretted hiding, not going out on the street for fear of what people might say,” he told ESPN Argentina TV show Hablemos de futbol. “There are people who cause so much pain and do so many bad things and yet they go out there showing their faces without shame,
“And we, who don’t kill anyone, who do things well, who only play a sport, why can’t we go out? Once I started to understand this, I started to go out, to live life more. I am grateful for it because life just goes by and suddenly you are 40 or 50 and you can’t go back. I live better.”
Higuain is playing in his 12th season playing in Europe. He retired from international football last month after scoring 31 goals in 75 international appearances for Argentina.
Higuain was part of the sides which suffered defeats in the finals of the 2014 World Cup, the 2015 Copa America and the 2016 Copa America Centenario — famously spurning chances in all three.
Asked about the criticism that followed, the 31-year-old said: “I suffered. Even if you don’t look at social media, it still reaches you. I’m now at a stage in my life when nothing hurts.
“I’ve played in the best leagues, the best teams, in three World Cups and in the Copa America. It no longer affects me what people say. I have overcome it. When I was young, I didn’t imagine that I would achieve 10 percent of what I have. Why am I going to worry what they say?”
Higuain credits his family for helping him, adding: “I didn’t want to be locked up at home as I had been in the past. I didn’t want to experience that with my wife and daughter.
“My wife was great help to be able to go out on the street without any fear. It’s one of the things that I’m most grateful for, to have overcome this.”
Higuain was labelled “a traitor” and “a mercenary” when he left Napoli for Juventus in an Italian-record €90 million transfer in 2016.
“I don’t regret joining Juve, if people don’t understand this, it’s not my problem,” Higuain said.
Earlier this year, he was criticised for cutting short his loan spell at AC Milan to join Chelsea in January on loan from Juventus.
“I know that if I want, I can return to any club where I’ve played,” he said. “That is something that fills me with pride.
“I’m a good person and I’ve always done well wherever I’ve gone. I want people to love me for being a good person, for who I am, not for how many titles I’ve won.”
Higuain has scored three goals in 10 league appearances for Chelsea, and the club have an option to extend or buy his rights this summer.