I was taking a quick read on the sports news yesterday and I was left stranded by an article on a Portuguese newspaper. I could not believe in my eyes when I read that Alexander Hleb, who once was and who probably still is a great player (I don't really think that one forgets how to play football), is returning to his home country of Belarus, to play for Bate Borisov. Although some internet football websites claim that he only signed a one-month contract, no one seems to know that for sure.
For Hleb, this is a return to his roots. The first team he ever played for was, in fact, Bate Borisov. Despite all of this, I think it is quite awkward to see a player, who was born in the same year as me – 1981, returning so quickly to an underrated league such as the Belarusian one. I know that people might say that injuries impeded him from going any further in his career, which is a given fact, but I cannot understand how a 31-year old quality player does not have any club interested in his services apart from the Belarusian “eternal” champion Bate Borisov.
I am pretty sure that Arsenal fans agree with me when I say that Hleb was probably one of the best midfielder they had in the last decade. Haunted by injuries, Hleb still managed to took part in 89 games for the The Gunners. Hleb is not – and never was – a goal scorer, although his amazing technique and passing skills compensate for that goal abstinence.
With Arsenal, it was a delight for sore eyes to see him playing on the right wing or even lurking behind the centre forward. He was at his best with Arsenal, only comparable with his performances at VfB Stuttgart.
I guess that the negative turning point of his career was, surprisingly enough, his move to Barcelona. He only played 19 games during 4 years and he was constantly being loaned. If you combine this situation with his constant injuries, one may easily consider the fact that joining Barcelona was his worst decision as a professional footballer.
The only thing left to say is: Return to top class football, Hleb, you may still have a word to say on the matter! Best wishes, man!