Atalanta manager confirms Josip Ilicic struggling with mental health issues 3 months ago

Atalanta manager confirms Josip Ilicic struggling with mental health issues

The player was considering retirement in 2020

Atalanta manager Gian Piero Gasperini has confirmed Josip Ilicic is struggling with mental health issues, describing the situation as 'delicate.'

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Ilicic had considered retirement from football in 2020 during a previous episode of mental health difficulties, but returned to the Atalanta side to become an important fixture in Gasperini's side.

The Slovenian has not been included in matchday squads since January 9th, when the Bergamo side beat Udinese 6-2. Since then, Atalanta have beaten Venezia in the cup and endured 0-0 draws with Inter and Lazio.

Rumours that he was excluded after contracting covid-19 began to circulate, prompting Gasperini to clarify the truth around the situation after the Lazio game.

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The manager explained that he could not guarantee Ilicic would return to the team.

"It is never easy for me to talk about a situation like this, because it is very personal. I can only say we will always be close to him, because these are situations that go beyond football, beyond the profession," the coach told Sky Sport Italia.

"We have known him for many years, had many happy moments together. I can say he is a very normal, positive person, but the insides of our minds are like a jungle. It’s tough for psychiatrists to work out what’s going on, let alone for us.

"I just hope he can return and rediscover some joy playing on the pitch."

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Asked whether there was a possibility of Ilicic's contract being terminated by mutual consent, Gasperini could not predict the player's future with any assurance.

"He knows as a person we’ll wait for him forever. As a player, I cannot answer that, it’s all very unpredictable and delicate."