Michael Johnson: Man City wonderkid whose career suffered due to mental health is now thriving in life

Richard Bevan
Richard Bevan
4 Min Read

There was once a name in the English footballing world, whispered in hushed tones as “the next big thing”. That name was Michael Johnson. He was not just any footballer; he was Manchester City’s most promising prodigy. But what transpired was an unfortunate tale that intertwined talent, fame, and mental health.

Playing in the youth academies of Leeds, Feyenoord, Crewe Alexandra, Liverpool, and Everton, Johnson’s journey led him to Manchester City in 2004. By 2006, the young prodigy had burst onto the senior team’s scene. The sky-blue side of Manchester believed they had a star in the making, and they weren’t wrong. His deft touches, box-to-box prowess, and goal-scoring capability marked him out as a force to reckon with.

Manchester City fans will recall the heart-thumping moment in 2007 when Johnson, with a blend of audacity and skill, netted the ball against Derby County. It was the club’s first home league goal since the dawn of that year. The same year saw him sidelined with an abdominal injury requiring surgery, but he returned with the same zest and zeal.

Injuries and mental health problems took their toll and affected Johnson’s promising career

His promise on the field was on the rise, building links with talents like Stephen Ireland and Elano. But the cruel hand of fate had other plans. The 2008-09 season saw Johnson’s abdominal injury recurred, pushing him into a year-long absence from top-tier football action. Although he made a brief return during City’s pre-season matches, a subsequent knee injury ensured he spent more time off the field than on it.

While injuries played havoc with his footballing career, Johnson’s personal life was spiralling into turmoil. The young star was arrested multiple times for drink-driving, facing the wrath of both law and public opinion. But beneath this was an underlying storm – his struggle with mental health. The pressures of a professional football career combined with personal setbacks took a toll on Johnson’s mental well-being.

Stories of sports personalities struggling with mental health aren’t new, but Johnson’s story is particularly poignant given his meteoric rise and equally swift decline. In a candid revelation to the Manchester Evening News, Johnson laid bare his battles, admitting to seeking treatment from The Priory Clinic.

There was a lot of media focus on Johnson’s life off the pitch

Many bemoaned the loss of such a gifted player. Former teammate Dietmar Hamann once likened him to the German footballing stalwart Michael Ballack. Eriksson saw him as “the next big star for England”, while City manager Mancini expressed his sorrow, calling him a “guy with big talent.”

But here’s where Johnson’s story takes an unexpected turn.

Retirement from football didn’t mean the end for Johnson; it was a new beginning. The former City wonderkid channelled his energies into the business arena. In 2014, he opened a restaurant in Didsbury, and the following year, Johnson took a leap into the real estate market, launching an estate agent’s business in Urmston.

Johnson is now a successful businessman

Michael Johnson’s path from the football grounds to business meetings showcases resilience and adaptability. Though he’s left his football days behind, Johnson’s journey has had its challenges, but he is appears to be content in his life now.

While football history may recall Michael Johnson as the promising talent from Man City, beyond the pitch he stands as an individual who tackled challenges head-on and carved his own way.

We wish him the best of luck.

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