Danny Drinkwater has revealed his relief at leaving Chelsea but says he is still “burning away” with the frustration of how his Stamford Bridge career panned out.
The former England international felt he was unfairly treated by the Blues, having made only 23 appearances in five years.
Drinkwater joined Chelsea in a reported £35million transfer in 2017, moving on from Leicester City 12 months after winning the Premier League title.
The midfielder was reunited with former Leicester team-mate N’Golo Kante but did not enjoy anything like the same success in London.
“I’m relieved, firstly, because it’s not hard to see that it definitely wasn’t ideal for me,” Drinkwater told Sky Sports. “It didn’t benefit the club.
“I’m angry because of how it’s gone, how I was treated. I’m not bitter about it, because you can look back and say what ifs and [have hindsight], which is obviously huge. I think it was just a long time coming.”
Drinkwater, who, at 32, does not plan to retire, said he “did too much too soon” to rush back from injury in his first season at Chelsea, leading to a setback.
He was then left out of the Chelsea squad the following year, which was “not expected at all”.
Drinkwater acknowledged his role on the fringes initially “had its benefits, I was loving it” but “living the life lasts for about two weeks”.
After a number of off-field issues, including deaths in the family and a drink-driving offence, the Manchester United academy graduate felt “lost”.
He did not play another competitive game for Chelsea’s first team, but a successful loan move to Reading last season – after difficult spells at Burnley and Aston Villa – allowed him to see out the final months of his five-year contract.
Drinkwater added: “If you stayed at Leicester, if you didn’t get injured, if the club treated you differently, if… they’re all ifs.
“It’s frustrating, 100 per cent. Don’t think I’ve not been burnt, or I’m still not burning away because of how it’s gone.
“I do kick myself from it. But am I going to keep kicking myself? I can’t change it.”