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.”
Tiger Woods Hospitalised After Car Crash
US golfer Tiger Woods was hospitalized Tuesday after a car crash in which his vehicle sustained “ major damage , ” the Los Angeles County Sheriff ’s department said .
Woods, the sole occupant, was removed from the wreckage by firefighters and paramedics and taken to a local hospital for treatment , a statement said.
The extent of his injuries was not known . The roll -over collision near Los Angeles did not involve any other vehicles .
FIFA Clears Eight Players For Super Eagles
FIFA has cleared eight new players for the Super Eagles.
Fulham’s forward Ademola Lookman is on top of the list.
Others on the list are:
* Jordan Torunarigha Hertha BSC
* Nathan Tella Southampton FC
* Tosin Adarabioyo Fulham FC
* Ovie Ejaria Reading FC
* Noni Madueke PSV
* Sheyi Ojo Cardiff City
Arsenal Complete Martin Odegaard Signing
By Agency Report
Arsenal have made an official statement to confirm that they have signed Martin Odegaard from Real Madrid on loan. The 22-year-old Norwegian international has joined the Premier League heavyweights for the remainder of the 2020/21 season.
Odegaard was touted for big things upon returning from his impressive loan spell at Real Sociedad, having been recalled from a two-year spell with La Real early, last summer. However, the 22-year-old has struggled to nail down his spot in Zinedine Zidane’s side, managing just nine outings in all competitions till date. His situation alerted Arsenal, who have quickly moved to sign him.
The interest from Arsenal makes a great deal of sense, seeing as they have lacked a genuine creative powerhouse in the squad this season. While Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka provided respite in recent weeks, the Gunners have still been in need of another out-and-out attacking playmaker, especially following the infamous departure of Mesut Ozil.
On his part, the young Norwegian was intent on temporarily leaving Real Madrid, which brought Arsenal on the verge of signing him this week. With Los Blancos unwilling to let him join Real Sociedad again, Arsenal became the favourites to sign him and have now secured his services. Upon his arrival, Mikel Arteta expressed his delight at having landed Odegaard.
The Arsenal boss said, “It’s great that we’ve secured Martin to come to us until the end of the season. Martin is of course a player that we all know very well and although still young, he has been playing at the top level for a while. Martin will provide us with quality offensive options and we’re all excited to be integrating him into our plans between now and May.”