Alexander Hleb says he’s a neutral for Arsenal’s Europa League clash with BATE Borisov tonight, but admits he still holds affection for the Gunners.
Hleb played for both BATE Borisov and Arsenal during his playing career. When asked about his allegiances in the Independent, he responded: “I am a neutral for this game.
“Arsenal are truly in my heart and BATE Borisov is where I began to develop and play internationally for the youth teams, which is how I was scouted for my move to Stuttgart.”
Back in 1998, Hleb joined Borisov as a youth player, and got the aforementioned move to Stuttgart just two years later in 2000. From there, he joined Arsenal, and spent three years with the Gunners before leaving for Barcelona.
Since he left the Gunners in 2008, Hleb has made 11 moves in nine years (including both permanent and loan deals). As part of those 11 moves, the midfielder joined back up with Borisov on three separate occasions, so clearly something about the club kept bringing him back.
Now he has the chance to watch the two play against each other. Despite playing for Barcelona, Hleb has always been clear that the best part of his career was at Arsenal, and to me there always seems to be a sense of ‘what could’ve been’ when he talks about the Gunners.
There were even rumours that the Belarusian offered to play for Borisov for free, so he could end his career at the Emirates. However, in the end it didn’t work out, so he’ll just be a spectator like the rest of us.