'I had this feeling of death' - Mauricio Pinilla opens on 'disappearing' from Hearts, mental health and Vladimir Romanov
Mauricio Pinilla has opened up on the personal issues he suffered during a difficult period in his life which coincided with his spell at Hearts.
The Chilean ace joined Hearts in 2006, making eight appearances before departing in 2008.
Despite his obvious talent which he displayed on his league debut, scoring against Inverness CT, and against Aberdeen when he netted a memorable team goal, Pinilla was unable to settle.
Off-field issues became prominent and Hearts didn’t get to see the best of a striker who was signed by Inter Milan after emerging as the next big talent from Chile and would eventually play regularly in Serie A and feature for his national side at the 2014 World Cup, while also winning two Copa America titles.
In an interview, via the Daily Record, the 37-year-old opened up on just how difficult his life was in the mid-2000s.
"I always had this mentality that everything was easy for me, then I went to Scotland in 2006,” Pinilla, who retired last month to take up a role with ESPN, said.
"From one day to the next I felt like I was drowning, I could not breathe. I had this feeling of death. I wanted to move house because I couldn't accept being there.
"So when I was at Hearts I ran away to Chile. I was admitted to a psychiatric clinic for two weeks.
"I was in such a bad moment in my life that I could not sleep. I wanted to stop playing football altogether.
"So I disappeared from Scotland, turned all my phones off and came home to Chile. My head wasn't right and I was depressed.”
‘My way out’
It led to then Hearts owner Vladimir Romanov going to South American to find Pinilla and speak to him.
He also admitted his issue with alcohol.
"The president of Hearts came looking for me in Chile with the sporting director and eventually found me. I agreed to return to Scotland and train again.
"Looking back, I also hid in alcohol. The worst thing for depression is drinking and that was my way out.
"Finally, in 2008 I realised I had to start behaving because I had a daughter and I had to show responsibility towards her."