Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has revealed his family were left scared by his weight loss after he contracted malaria while on international duty in March.
The Gabon forward missed four games following the diagnosis after a feeling of lethargy left him questioning the cause.
He returned off the bench in the Europa League semi-final first-leg defeat to Villarreal last week and is in line to start the return game, having scored in Sunday’s Premier League win at Newcastle.
But the 31-year-old has only now revealed how a significant drop in weight and change in mood had him and his close ones worried about his health. Aubameyang played in Arsenal’s 3-0 defeat to Liverpool without knowing he was ill.
“I was feeling just normal, a bit down – I thought that it was the travel,” he said.
“As you know, going to Gabon is not so close to here. I felt just a bit tired, especially against Liverpool, but I thought it was just because of the travel.
“I was feeling very, very bad. This was the worst moment of being sick in my life, it was really hard.
“I had three days in a row, fever, all day and all night, non-stop. Even the paracetamol and stuff had no effects on this. After that, I spoke to the doctor.
“I said I needed to go to the hospital because I had travelled to Africa so maybe it was something like malaria.
“I stayed in hospital for three days. I was really, really down and I think I lost four kilograms. It was a really bad moment and I think my family was a bit scared to see me like this.
“I had some good treatment, it worked well, the doctors and the hospital. I am lucky I got treatment at the right moment, if you don’t treat it quickly it can lead to big problems”
The Arsenal captain says he is now mentally, and almost physically, ready to make the difference for Arsenal as they look to overturn a 2-1 first-leg defeat to Villarreal on Thursday.
He added: “In my mind, I feel more than 100 per cent but physically maybe I am not. Hopefully my body will respond as well but definitely in my mind I am ready.”
‘Arsenal have been good to me, I owe the club and fans’
Contracting malaria was the latest setback in a strange season for Aubameyang, who signed a new three-year contract in September with the target of becoming an Arsenal “legend”.
But he has struggled for form and was given a period of compassionate leave to visit his ill mother, before being dropped for the north London derby win over Tottenham after arriving late.
He thanked the club for allowing him to be close to his mother during a difficult time and says the importance of family should not be overlooked in a footballer’s performance.
“When I had this issue with my mum the club were really kind to me and they let me go to see her. It was a really nice thing for the club to do. It has been a difficult year for me because I am used to seeing my family often, when playing home they come to the stadium.
“It’s been a bad year, hopefully next year will be different. I am a player that likes this kind of emotion when people are around.
“My mum is feeling so much better now and is doing well. I wish every football player can be close to their family.”
Reflecting on being dropped by Mikel Arteta for arriving late ahead of a north London derby earlier this year, Aubameyang continued: “
“Definitely (I regret it). It was a bad moment. After the game my feeling was that it was best that we won the derby. This is another part of this season but it is gone now. I have to keep looking forward but I regret some things this season.
“I was out for a few weeks and I had time to think about the whole season. Of course I want to give more, I know myself, I am capable of doing it. I have to give something back to the club and the fans. They are waiting for something from me and it is the right moment to show I am capable of doing it.”