Alexander Hleb said he cried when Arsene Wenger texted him as he was leaving Arsenal, and believe most players come to regret leaving the club.
Hleb joined Arsenal in the summer of 2005 but spent only three seasons at the club before joining Barcelona.
The move didn’t work out for him at all, and was one he came to regret.
Even now, the midfielder can’t explain why he decided to leave Arsenal, where he was a key member of the first team.
“It’s still difficult for me to explain why I left Arsenal,” Hleb told Planet Football.
“I was absolutely happy there. Arsene 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.”
Hleb wasn’t the only Arsenal player to leave a good thing and not have the same success elsewhere.
He puts that down to the relationships Arsene Wenger builds with his players and how he used to give everyone a chance.
“Wenger is like a father to me. It was really easy to work with him, you always felt his support,” he said.
“During my first season in England, I picked up in injury while playing for the national team. So, as I was trying to recover from it, I told Arsene that maybe it would make sense to send me on loan to Germany or something.
“He was like, ‘Stop it! I believe in you! Don’t even think about things like that.’ Honestly? I just flew out of the room. It really felt like I had wings.
“Arsene truly feels his players. He says exactly what a player needs to hear.
“I think there are very few guys who might say that they haven’t enjoyed working with him.
“Everyone felt like they would get a chance. And I think most players who left ultimately regretted it.”
Wenger and Hleb reunited in Minsk when Arsenal played BATE Borisov in the Champions League.
Hleb made 129 appearances for Arsenal in all competitions, but his post-Arsenal career has been spotty and this is not the first time he has spoke of his deep regret at leaving Arsenal. Even Arsene Wenger said he made a mistake.
During his struggles at Barcelona, Hleb spent time on loan at Suttgart, Birmingham and Wolfsburg.
He returned east by joining Russian side Krylia Sovetov before returning to BATE, where his career started.
The 36-year-old is currently playing in Russia with Krylia Sovetov again after a short stint in Turkey.