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Alexander Hleb: I Cried Over Arsenal Exit; Most Players Regret Leaving

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Alexander Hleb might not be the first name that springs to mind when you think of the 2006 Arsenal team which came so close to winning the first Champions League trophy in club’s history.

But it was Arsenal where the versatile Belarusian midfielder played the best football in his career – and eventually earned himself a £12million move to Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona in the summer of 2008.

Yet what would be a dream move for most players turned out to be an utter disaster for Hleb, who spent just one year at Barcelona before leaving loan to Stuttgart and never returning to Spain.

“It’s still difficult for me to explain why I left Arsenal,” Hleb says. “I was absolutely happy there. Arsene completely trusted me, it was idyllic. And then I decided to leave.

“I was on vacation and agents and managers convinced me that I had to go to Barcelona. To be honest, I didn’t really understand what I was doing. At some point, I realised, ‘Oh god! I’m leaving Arsenal!’

“When Arsene said that it was a matter of hours, I felt devastated. It was really hard for me to accept that. Wenger did everything to make me stay at Arsenal.

“He even texted me as I was fishing. ‘Alex, I won’t let you go, we need you here.’ I cried when I read it.”

Hleb reckons he is one of many players who’ve regretted leaving Arsenal and Wenger behind over the years, but his relationship with the Gunners boss survived the transfer.

“Yes, we even met in Minsk a few months ago when Arsenal played against BATE in the Champions League,” Hleb says. “Wenger is like a father to me. It was really easy to work with him, you always felt his support.

“During my first season in England, I picked up in injury while playing for the national team. So, as I was trying to recover from it, I told Arsene that maybe it would make sense to send me on loan to Germany or something.

“He was like, ‘Stop it! I believe in you! Don’t even think about things like that.’ Honestly? I just flew out of the room. It really felt like I had wings.

“Arsene truly feels his players. He says exactly what a player needs to hear. I think there are very few guys who might say that they haven’t enjoyed working with him. Everyone felt like they would get a chance. And I think most players who left ultimately regretted it.”

Hleb moved from Stuttgart to Arsenal in 2005, a year after the Invincibles wrote their way into Premier League folklore.

It would have been hard for anyone to get into a starting XI featuring players like Thierry Henry, Robert Pires and Dennis Bergkamp, but a 24-year-old Belarusian who didn’t have any Premier League experience and couldn’t understand a word of English? Imagine that.

“When I first came to London, the first team was still on vacation because they finished the season a bit later than I did in Germany,” Hleb says. “So, during my first days at Arsenal, I was mainly surrounded by youngsters.

“Everything was great although I got really upset when I found out that Patrick Vieira was leaving. I mean, I just came there and one of the greats was already on his way out.

“Then the first team came in, but I couldn’t speak to anyone because I didn’t know English! And all the main guys spoke either English or French. The only two players I could really chat with were Jens Lehmann who obviously spoke German and Philippe Senderos who spoke six languages.

“Then the club gave me a teacher and it all worked out well, but I definitely had to train very hard because Premier League football was extremely intensive, much more intensive than it was in Bundesliga.

“We played one-touch football and you had to make a decision before you even got the ball. You need time to adapt to that. Fortunately, I had Arsene who really believed in me so after six months or so I felt completely settled and ready to go.”

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Former Senegalese Footballer, Papa Diop Dies At 42

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By Agency Report

Former Senegalese International, Papa Bouba Diop has died at the age of 42, according to reports. Canal+. The former Fulham and Portsmouth midfielder passed away following a long illness.

Diop also represented West Ham and Birmingham in England, as well as winning 63 caps for his country Senegal.

Diop retired from professional football in 2013 after leaving Birmingham.

He started his career at Senegalese club ASC Diaraf in 1996 and had spells in Switzerland with Vevey, Neuchatel Xamax and Grasshoppers.

Diop moved to France to play for Lens in 2002 before he joined Fulham in 2004.

He spent three years at Craven Cottage, scoring nine goals in 84 appearances, before his switch to Portsmouth in 2007.

He was part of the Pompey side that won the 2008 FA Cup, coming on as a 78th minute substitute in the 1-0 win over Cardiff.

Diop played 72 times for Portsmouth before leaving to join AEK Athens.

He only had a brief spell at AEK between 2010 and 2011 before moving back to England with West Ham in 2011.

Diop’s international career began in 2001 and he played for his country at the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea.

He will be remembered for scoring the goal to beat defending champions France 1-0 in the first game of the tournament.

Tributes have flooded in for the former midfielder.

Lens posted a message on their Twitter account shortly after the news of Diop’s death.

The tweet read: “It is with great sadness that Racing Club de Lens has just learned of the disappearance of its former player Papa Bouba Diop, at the age of 42.

“We offer our deepest condolences to his loved ones.”

Former England striker Gary Lineker tweeted: “How terribly sad. Taken so young. RIP Papa Bouba Diop.”

(SOURCE: Express UK)

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Maradona No Longer Wanted To Live, Says Manager

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Agency Reporter

Diego Armando Maradona’s manager and friend, Stefano Ceci, said the legend ‘was tired and let himself die’ while the family around him was ‘tearing each other’s hair out.’
The Napoli and Argentina icon died on Wednesday at the age of 60 after numerous health problems and addictions that ravaged his life and career.
“There’s an investigation into Diego’s death and people now point the finger at what could’ve been done, but that’s a concept that should be extended to his entire life,” manager Stefano Ceci told Radio Kiss Kiss.
“Diego was always alone: people only ever thought about Maradona. Diego stopped being Diego when he turned 17. He was very difficult to deal with as a person, because he was fragile, full of insecurities, humble and good-natured. I have 20 years of wonderful memories.
“Recently he was letting himself go, physically and mentally. I think he was tired and let himself die, he no longer really wanted to live.
“The family chaos that surrounded Diego meant he never had real peace. Even now that he’s dead, they are still tearing each other’s hair out.
“At least now he can be with those he loved the most, his mother and father. Now Diego is in peace.”
Maradona was buried next to his parents in Buenos Aires.

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Football Legend, Maradona Is Dead 

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Football legend Diego Maradona has died at the age of 60 as a result of cardiac arrest.
He recently underwent an operation to remove a blood clot on his brain on October 30.
Mirror reports that the Gimnasia boss fell unwell after his side beat Patronato 3-0 and was taken to hospital in La Plata, near the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires.
Scans discovered a subdural hemetoma, requiring Maradona to undergo immediate surgery to remove the problem before being sent home to continue his recovery.
Reports in Argentina say Maradona was showing signs of recovery, but the 60-year-old then suffered a cardiac arrest and has passed away.
A tweet by the Argentine Football Association through its President Claudio Tapia, expressed its deepest pain at Maradona’s death saying he will always be in their hearts.
Gary Lineker referred to Maradona as “arguably the greatest of all time”.
Lineker tweeted: “By some distance the best player of my generation and arguably the greatest of all time. After a blessed but troubled life, hopefully he’ll finally find some comfort in the hands of God.”

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