The ex-Belarus star barely featured for the Catalan side before he was loaned out to Stuttgart a year after moving to Camp Nou
Aleksandr Hleb should have joined Bayern Munich instead of Barcelona, according to his former agent, who says the winger struggled in Spain because of a difference in mentality.
Hleb joined Barca in 2008 after three impressive years at Arsenal, but the Belarus international was unable to live up to expectations at Camp Nou and played just 19 La Liga matches before he was loaned out.
Ulrich Ferber, Hleb’s former agent, says he would have been better off accepting an offer from German giants Bayern, especially as he had already had a successful spell in the Bundesliga with Stuttgart.
What has been said?
“At Arsenal he had the best time of his career, Arsene Wenger loved him. Then Barca and Bayern wanted him. We talked to both, he ultimately chose Barcelona,” Ferber told Goal and SPOX.
“On the plane on the way to sign the contract, I sensed that he was looking forward to it, but also doubting it. In this situation, I probably should have had more influence, he should have signed with Bayern after all.
“Barca was a huge club, but returning to Germany and the overall package in Munich would probably have been a better fit at that point. But Aleks wanted to play with Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Thierry Henry.”
Why didn’t it work out at Barca?
Hleb arrived at Camp Nou just after Pep Guardiola replaced Frank Rijkaard as head coach.
He spent just one season in the first-team picture alongside the likes of Samuel Eto’o, Messi, Henry, Xavi and Iniesta before being loaned to Stuttgart in 2009, followed by temporary spells at Birmingham and Wolfsburg.
Ferber believes the mentality in Spanish football did not suit his former client, even though he was good enough to play for Barca.
“Frank Rijkaard and [then Barca director of football] Txiki Begiristain were desperate to sign him. However, Rijkaard had to leave before Hleb arrived, and Pep Guardiola found no use for him,” he added.
“At Arsenal, he played almost all the time, so he was not used to playing only about 60 per cent of the games. He also had problems with the Spanish mentality, having already had to get used to the German and English within a few years.
“In terms of his skills, he clearly had what it takes. Watching him play with Messi and Iniesta was poetry. In the end, it was based on mental problems and he also failed because of his pride.”
Where did Hleb go next?
Hleb officially left the Catalan side when his contract was terminated in January 2012.
He then moved to Krylia Sovetov Samara for a brief spell before rejoining BATE Borisov.
After a brief time at Konyaspor, he had his first of two spells at Genclerbirligi and joined BATE three more times before returning to Krylia Sovetov Samara. He then ended his career at Isloch Minsk Raion in 2019.