The real reason Hleb’s move from Arsenal to Barcelona went so badly wrong

You can hardly blame a player for leaving Arsenal for Barcelona.

It’s like when Cristiano Ronaldo left Manchester United for Real Madrid; nothing United could have offered would have been enough to dissuade him from leaving for the Santiago Bernabeu.

But, unlike Ronaldo’s rise from world’s best player to world’s even better player, Alex Hleb’s career nosedived when he left England for Spain.


Hleb was a beautiful player to watch during his time in north London, but joining Barcelona proved to be a kiss of death for the Belarus midfielder’s career.

Although you would have assumed Hleb would have thrived at Barcelona, with his tidy footwork and flair, but he flopped dramatically, appearing just 19 times in La Liga in four years as a Barca player.

So what went wrong?

Hleb claims it was his turbulent relationship with now-Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola.


“I was always fighting with Guardiola,” he said.

“I didn’t used to listen to him, he would say to take Spanish classes to integrate myself into the team, but I wouldn’t do them.”

Hleb’s poor relationship with Guardiola would result in loan spells at Wolfsburg, Stuttgart and Birmingham City.

“[Pep and I] would shout at each other. He expected one thing from me and I wouldn’t do it and the way with which I would say ‘no’ was like a child. My judgement was clouded and I ignored him,” he said.

Barcelona's Argentinean forward Lionel M
Lionel Messi (left) and Hleb

But, unlike Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Hleb doesn’t blame Guardiola for his shortcomings at the Nou Camp.

“It was my fault I didn’t continue at Barca, it was to do with my character. I was stressed because I had problems in my private life.”

At 35, Hleb is still plying his trade for Belarusian side BATE, but he never recaptured the glittering form he possessed in his final seasons at the Emirates.

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