London - Ashley Cole admits he was close to leaving Chelsea in the close-season following his high-profile divorce from his pop star wife.
The England defender was keen on a fresh start away from England following his acrimonious split from Girls Aloud singer Cheryl Cole and a move to Real Madrid was a possible escape route.
Cole would have been reunited with former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho, who signed him from Arsenal in 2006, if he had joined Real.
But Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti persuaded the left-back to remain at Stamford Bridge and he has been revitalised this season.
Cole, quoted in Daily Star on Sunday, said: "It was hard for me in my head. It wasn't just about the football, it was more my brain and it was getting too much for me.
"There were times when it was really hard. I did think about leaving but, of course, when I spoke to Ancelotti he made it clear he wanted me to stay and loved having me around.
"The players didn't want me to go. I'm glad I stayed. A lot of people were saying,'You can't leave'.
"I've stayed now and I've taken the flak and hopefully I'm coming through it."
Cole turns 30 in December and hopes to play on at the top level for another four years.
"I would like to say four years - but you never know. I may end my career here," he said.
"I've got good young players behind me at Chelsea and I hope one day they can get more games and one day take my place.
"But at the minute I'm just taking it year by year and seeing how the body is. I'm 29 but I feel like 35 or 40.
"It's hard getting up in the mornings but I hope to have another four years and hopefully win a few more medals and win the Champions League."