Alexander Hleb was born in 1 March 1981 in Minsk and was very bright during his youth. From 2000 he began to make a mark in European top flight football as he started with Stuttgart who believed in his talent and bought him from BATE, Belarus champions.
5 years in VFB and he changed his image from “unknown person from mysterious country” to a great deal of authority in Bundesliga. During this 5 year tenure he played under several coaches including Felix Magat and Mattias Sammer and Hleb was able to prove his talent under each one and the media certainly helped with their part to bring the player into line light. In total he played in approximately 170 games in Bundesliga and scored 30 times. At his last season in Germany he had the most number of assist in the league.
And who else other than Arsene Wenger to spot the youth prodigy. Hleb became a Gunner at the start of the 2005-06 season after a €15 million transfer move. His first year in London was not very productive as the Belarusian spent half the season to adapt himself to life at England and the hard tackles that come in his way. As predicted he was branded as a flop and the money spent on him was a waste and there was even talks Hleb returning back to Bundesliga. Hamburg made one such attempt to lure the player, but Wenger persuaded Hleb to remain at the Emirates and wanted him to show his worth.
And what we saw in the 2nd half of the season was just a miracle. Hleb along with Fabregas started a new partnership at the heart of the Arsenal midfield and it was working brilliantly for them. Their magic saw Arsenal reach the final of the UEFA Champions League, beating Juventus at the quarterfinals and Villarreal in the semi-finals. Hleb together with Cesc Fabregas were lethal against the likes of Viera and Emerson. But in the final Arsenal met Barcelona and an early red card for Lehmann meant the Londoners were at the back foot from the beginning of the game and two late strikes from the Catalans left the Gunners heart broker at the Stade de France.
A small proof of what he was back at Arsenal:
[youtube width=”500″ height=”300″]TEtaNKo0E6U[/youtube]
Next jump – season 2007-08. Therry Henry’s departure raised a few eye brows and Arsenal were doubted if they will be able to survive without him. Hleb became leader of the team and again brought everything which was his label at Bundesliga. But as there were some limitations for experienced players, which Wenger showed no interest in signing, also the willingness not to increase salary, made Hleb one of worst mistakes in his life, the midfielder moved to Barcelona for the same amount of money, which Arsenal spent on him.
Barcelona, a very specific team, seemed very close to Arsenal’s playing strategy. But the problem of mentality creeped in Catalonia. For first half of the season, Hleb started most of the games from the bench. His transfer was the last one for the season and combing back from a forgettable season, Barca pinned their hopes on the midfielder to add a new flair to their attacking potentials and a sense of strongness to the midfield.
Meanwhile, from Barcelona Cantera were some internal transfers. Busquets and Pedro became first team members further hampering Hleb’s first team opportunities. Barcelona under Pep Guardiola changed thier playing style and were involved in either a 4-3-3 or 4-1-2-1-2) formation which had no place for Hleb to prove himself. The partnership of Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets had a greater impact than any other combination and Pep refused to change his style which automatically led to frustrations.
In the season when the Catalans scored a total of 156 goals, Hleb scored none of them and was involved in a meagre 19 games throughout the season. He started to get himself into trouble soon and was involved in several training session bust-ups with fellow players.
After that period, his career started to decline as predicted and the player spent three successive seasons on loan at several clubs including his former club VfB Stuttgart and a year each in Birmingham City and VfL Wolfsburg.
For a man who was called as “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” during his time in the Bundesliga, a nickname derived from his famous mazy runs and impeccable balance even amidst the most stringent defensive pressure he went on to play for a mid table Russian team FC Krylia Sovetov Samara before finally ending up at BATE Borisov where he started almost a decade ago.
Looking back at his career, Hleb’s story can be deemed as the perfect example of a man who climbed the higgest possible ladder in the footballing world only to crumble at the very last step. He was a hero in 2008, he is a zero now!
Finally I will end it with this video, It’s hard to see him these days so have a look at this:
[youtube width=”500″ height=”300″]681E8ShAYc0[/youtube]