Wilfried Zaha admits a troubled spell at Manchester United left him fearing that he could “slip” and end up in League One.
The highly-rated winger was snapped up by the Red Devils in 2013 as part of a £10 million deal.
He was, however, to be restricted to just four appearances as he spent most of his time out on loan at Cardiff City and Crystal Palace.
The latter took up the opportunity to re-sign Zaha in February 2015 and have seen him flourish back in familiar surroundings to rebuild his reputation and career.
“There was a point I was thinking, ‘If I do not buck up, I could let this slip’,” the 24-year-old admitted to The Sun while reflecting on his forgettable stint at Old Trafford.
“Before you know it, I could have been in League One.
“I knew that what happened at United should not define me as a person or player.
“It was about having a strong mentality and working hard. I’m at an age where I feel I have to start fulfilling my potential.
“People said I was not ready for my big move — but I didn’t get the opportunity and was just branded a flop.
“I had to start again. I’m doing it for myself and also to show I’m a good player.”
He added: “Players can come back stronger. Look at [Kevin] De Bruyne.
“Jose Mourinho got rid of him at Chelsea, he joined Wolfsburg, came to City and is now one of the best players in the Prem.
“Sometimes, the easiest route is not the best route. You come back stronger.
“Look at Romelu Lukaku. He has scored the most goals in the league, even though some doubted him. He has proved everyone wrong.”
While the memories of one failed big-money move remain fresh in the mind, Zaha is once again generating intense transfer speculation.
Tottenham are among those said to be keen on acquiring his services, but the Ivory Coast international insists he has taken no decision on his future.
He added: “I need to keep getting goals and assists. I will decide what to do next. For now, my performances are all that is on my mind.
“But I will learn from the past.”
Zaha has scored six times in 33 appearances for Palace this season, with his efforts helping them to edge towards Premier League safety.