Former Arsenal star Alexander Hleb says it was a mistake to leave the club for Barcelona. Hleb joined the Gunners from Stuttgart in 2005 and spent three seasons in north London, making 130 appearances and reaching the Champions League final with the club.
The former attacking midfielder was not able to secure a regular spot in Barca’s starting XI as he featured just 36 times for the Spanish giants and was loaned out to Stuttgart, Birmingham, and Wolfsburg before his contract was terminated by mutual consent.
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Although the Camp Nou outfit won the Champions League, La Liga, and the Copa del Rey in his first season at the club, he admits it was not worth leaving Arsenal, where he felt truly happy. “Many years later and I still think about it,” Hleb said on Arsenal’s In Lockdown podcast. “I don’t understand. To this day I still don’t understand what happened or why I made the decision.
“Of course, Barcelona at that moment was the best team in the world but I was really happy at Arsenal at the time. I had friends, I enjoyed the coach, I was playing for one of the best teams, the fans, the stadium, everything! The fantastic championship, the Premier League, everything!
“Why I left, I don’t understand. Barca, of course, was the best team at the time and everybody wants something to try but really I was 100 percent happy at Arsenal. “I cried when I talked to Arsene [Wenger]. We talked on the holiday before I left and he told me he wanted to keep me and I was important. I cried. I didn’t know what to do at that moment.
“Of course, Barca is a fantastic team. I won titles and everything but I didn’t play as much as I did at Arsenal. This is only my mistake because, at the time, a lot of things happened in my private life. I started very nervously [at Barcelona]. Always aggressive. It was only my mistake.
“Of course [I still think about my career]. When you’re young you think you have so many years but it’s really like one moment. It’s really quick. My children now ask me about [my career] and you explain your emotions and it’s nice, it’s very nice.”