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The Tragic Story Of Football's First Billion-Dollar Player That Never Was

Cristiano Ronaldo is expected to become football's first billionaire later this year, but before him, Vincent Pericard was tipped to be the game's first billion-dollar star. However, things did not turn out so well for the Africa-born striker, and almost ended in suicide…

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Pericard, who was born in Efok, Cameroon, moved to France at the age of four. He is a former forward whose career seemed destined for greatness, only for a mistaken text message to send him into a downward spiral.

The now 37-year-old made his debut for Juventus in 2002 after being signed from Saint Etienne. He was 18 years at the time and had a documentary made about him called The Man Who Will Be Worth Billions.

"One of my fondest memories was of my first training session," Pericard told ESPN journalist Tom Hamilton, recalling his time at Juve.

"We played five-a-side and Zidane drilled past me like he could fly. I didn't realise what had hit me."

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However, he featured in just one game for Juventus – a UEFA Champions League clash against Arsenal – before a text message would ruin his stint with the Serie A giants.

He and two friends went out for drinks and Pericard invited their Italian teacher via text message. He recalls the message as being an innocent one, but just five minutes later, one of Juventus' directors called him, asking why he invited his girlfriend out for drinks.

From this day, a downward spiral started as injuries and poor life choices hampered his career. He moved from club to club and represented 10 teams overall. He also started drinking and womanising before ending up in jail after being caught speeding. 

"I couldn't seem to find a way out," Pericard explains.

"And after a while, you start thinking, why do I even bother living, as I'm not bringing anything. Those thoughts crossed my mind and I realised things were serious.

"That's what really gave me a big kick to seek solutions. That was not me. I believe in resilience, but the fact I was thinking that meant I needed help.

"I could no longer do it by myself."

Read: 'I Sold My Club World Cup Medal To Buy Cocaine'

Luckily, he turned the corner with the help of a sport psychologist and started studying after hanging up his boots. He now holds a degree and a master's, and founded a company that invented the app WhatsUp?, which is geared around mental health awareness but allows users to remain anonymous.

This article was compiled using information from a story originally published by ESPN, which you can read in full here.

Do you think more players should open up about the pressures and mental health issues in football? Have your say in the comments section below.

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