Former Arsenal midfielder Alexander Hleb has rejoined his boyhood club BATE Borisov for a fifth time. The Belarus international will be 37 in May and will be calling time on his 20-year career after this final move.
Hleb has been in a reflective mood as he announced that he was reaching the end of his career. In a recent interview, the 36-year-old explained that he wanted one final swansong with his beloved BATE before hanging up his boots. He also expressed his regrets about leaving Arsenal back in 2008.
"This season will be the final for me in my career," Hleb explained (via the Daily Mail). "I really want to finish it on a beautiful note: to win national trophies with BATE, get into the group stage of the Champions League and help the team."
This is Hleb's fifth stint with Belarusian outfit BATE Borisov. He first joined the club as a youngster back in 1999. Since then he has also had one-year spells at the club in 2012, 2015, and 2016.
Unfortunately Hleb's many short spells with BATE as just one part of the sad trajectory the midfielder's career took following his departure from Arsenal.
Hleb signed for Barcelona from the Gunners in 2008 for €15m plus bonuses. After barely featuring for his new club in his first season, Hleb was sent on three loan spells to Stuttgart, Birmingham City, and Wolfsburg.
His contract with Barcelona was terminated in January 2012. In the space of six years Hleb has moved clubs nine times. From Turkey, to Russia, to Belarus, Hleb has barely managed to last a year at a club since his departure from Barcelona.
His greatest moment came at Arsenal, where he spent three seasons and quickly became a fan favourite. Hleb quickly became known for his precise dibbling and quick passing and fans still remember his time in North London fondly.
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"It's still tough for me to explain why I left Arsenal," said Hleb (via GiveMeSport). "I was absolutely happy there. Arsene [Wenger] completely trusted me, it was idyllic. And then I decided to leave.
"I was on vacation and agents and managers convinced me that I had to go to Barcelona. To be honest, I didn't really understand what I was doing. At some point, I realised, 'Oh god! I'm leaving Arsenal!' When Arsene said that it was a matter of hours, I felt devastated.
"It was really hard for me to accept that. Wenger did everything to make me stay at Arsenal. He even texted me as I was fishing. 'Alex, I won't let you go, we need you here.' I cried when I read it."