Alexander Hleb recently revealed in an interview that he truly regrets leaving Arsenal in the summer of 2008 when he joined Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona in Spain.
The Belarus international joined the Gunners in 2005, in a transfer that was worth around €15 million, on a four-year contract, from German side VFB Stuttgart. Arsene Wenger was a big fan of Hleb and his versatility to play all over the midfield as well as in the forward line.
He was a part of the Arsenal team that reached the UEFA Champions League final in 2006, where Arsenal were narrowly defeated by Barcelona, in a game full of controversial refereeing decisions.
In a recent interview, Hleb revealed why he decided to leave North London and how he deeply regrets the move.
“It’s still difficult for me to explain why I left Arsenal, 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!”
The former Arsenal man also stated that he cried when Arsene Wenger sent him a text message trying to convince him to stay in North London…
“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.”
The Belarusian left Barcelona after just one year and spent time on loan in Germany and England. Hleb stated that he is still in regular contact with Arsene Wenger and that they have even met in the coffee shop when Arsenal played Bate Borisov in Minsk.
Alexander Hleb is just one of a series of former Arsenal players who went on to regret leaving North London. Another more recent player was Alexis Sanchez.
Alexis Sanchez claimed he wanted to return to former club Arsenal after his first day of training at Man United.
Sanchez joined Man Utd in a part-exchange deal from Arsenal, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan moving the other way. But the forward struggled immensely at Old Trafford under Jose Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, scoring just five goals for the club in 45 appearances.
Alexis Sanchez said: “Before going to United, I had an agreement with Manchester City but it didn’t work out and I got the chance to join Manchester United. It was something nice for me, as a kid I liked the club a lot.
“I ended up signing without having a lot of information about what was happening with the move. During the first few days that I was with my new teammates, sometimes there are things that you do not realise until you arrive.
“After the first training I had I realised many things. When I got home and I asked my family and my representative: ‘Can my contract be terminated and can I to return to Arsenal?’
“They were laughing about it but I really felt there were some bad things going on at the club which I did not like.”