Former Arsenal midfielder Alexander Hleb has revealed that he regrets leaving the Gunners to join Barcelona in 2008, where he won the Champions League after failing to win in the final against the Catalans in 2006. The former Belarus international had made 130 appearances for the north London club in his three-year stint and insists that manager Arsene Wenger was a father figure to him.
Hleb could not establish himself as a starter in the Barcelona XI and regrets making the move to Spain rather than stay at the Emirates, where he was an important figure with the north London club. He, alongside Cesc Fabregas, were the fulcrum of the Arsenal midfield, something Wenger had to rebuild once both of them left.
The Gunners have come a long way since and currently have Granit Xhaka and Santi Cazorla in the base of their midfield, with Mesut Ozil further forward to provide the creativity. Aaron Ramsey, Francis Coquelin and Mohamed Elneny are the other players who can slot into the middle, giving the Gunners some much-needed depth in order to build a title challenge.
"I was playing at the top of my game in London and it was the best moments of my career," Hleb told Reuters. "In my first season we got to the Champions League final. We lost, but I remember this final more than the other one when I won with Barcelona in 2009, but I didn't play.
"On the one hand I regret that I did not stay at Arsenal. [Arsene] Wenger was like a father to me and trusted me. I get sad when I start to think about this. On the other hand, Barcelona was and still is the strongest club. I did not play that often, but I still got game time."