Sporting CP defender Fabio Coentrão has admitted that he asked himself if he had "forgotten how to play football" at certain times during his spell at Real Madrid, given his exile from the squad prior to leaving.
Real Madrid are still the parent club of Coentrão, who is on loan at Sporting, and the 29-year-old looked back on his time there in a recent interview with Marca. Coentrão made over 100 appearances for Los Blancos but towards the latter stages of his stay, found himself completely out of the running for a first team place.
"The first and third years were very good," Coentrão explained. "I was a starter against Bayern and in other difficult matches. We won a Champions League.
"I think people could also look at the good. I know I did a lot of bad things. There were bad games and bad times in which I can say that I did not work hard, but I did good things that people did not consider. That's why I felt like the ugly duckling. I do not care anymore, anyway. What I like are the good years in Madrid and I am very grateful for them.
"It's normal, when I'm with Portugal I feel confident. I think to myself: 'Look, I have not forgotten to play football.' Because I often asked myself at Madrid what was happening with me, if I had forgotten to play. When I returned to the national team it was the moment for me when I felt: 'Look, I'm still a good footballer'."
The Portugese full-back also expressed frustration that his critics did not take his circumstances at Real Madrid into account, as he battled for a place behind world-class left-back Marcelo.
"The truth is that people, when they criticise, do not pay attention to things," he explained. "I had Marcelo ahead of me. Mar-ce-lo! We are not talking about any player. I did enough!
"The first year we won the league and that was when I played the most: thirty-odd games. In the second, things were very bad for everyone and in the third, with Ancelotti, we won the Champions League but I also played the quarter finals and the semis, in addition to the final. It was a great season.
"From there things started to get a little complicated due to the injuries I had. But if we look a bit at the internationals, I think I did things right. People do not look at this. They criticise without seeing that."