Every story has a beginning and ours begins in the city of Minsk, Belarus.
Aliaksandr Paulavich Hleb (simplified as Alexander Hleb for us English-speaking people) began Hlebbbing us on Friday, May 1, 1981, born to a mother that was a builder and a father that drove petrol tanks for a living. HIs father would end up volunteering to help demolish houses that were left uninhabitable by the Chernobyl disaster, a job that Alexander believes contributed to his father's ill health later in life :(
Sad things aside, Alexander honed his football skills on the concrete pitches of FC Dinamo Minsk's school. FC BATE Borisov were so impressed with him that they singed him to a youth contract at 17 years of age. He impressed them so well that he would join their senior squad a year later and help BATE Borisov win the Belarusian Premiere League title.
(Image courtesy of the Guardian)
The Hleb would soon take his talents to VFB Stuttgart in 2000, when the club decided that they wanted to pay 150,000 Euros for him and his brother Vyacheslav. Can you imagine that? A club willingly let themselves get Hlebbed twice! Anyhow, the first instance of the Hlebbing phenomena occurred Sept. 5, 2000, when he was subbed in for the last 20 minutes of Stuttgart's match against Kaiserslautern.
Stuttgart and their manager at that time Felix Magath allowed Alexander to flourish under their system and evolve into the creative midfielder and playmaker that our old friend Arsene Wenger loved (I'll get to that in a bit.) When the 2002/03 season rolled around, Stuttgart finished as the Bundesliga runner-up and a memorable Champions League victory over Manchester United.
Plotting to bring Cesc home, I'm sure of it.
Magath would leave Stuttgart to go to FC Bayern, leaving Alexander to be managed by Mathias Sammer and his rigid system of football. Alexander chucked his deuces and left to go to a magical football club called...
Arsenal was Hlebbed in June 2005, when Alexander signed a four-year contract which might have reached €15 million. Arsene used him in many parts of the midfield but his Hlebness was quite effective at the right wing. He made his debut for the club in August 2005, in a match versus Chelsea. As fate would have it, he sustained a knee injury while on international duty for Belarus and was out for several months.
He wouldnt't see action until Arsenal's final Champions League group stage match in December against Ajax and became the first Belarusian footballer to ever play in a CL final (and we all know who won it that year.)
Alexander made 40 appearances in his first season for the Gunners. A hamstring injury would only see him playing 48 matches in the 2006-07 season. Nothing of import happened to him in the '07-'08 so I'll just skip it. So here are some photos of him broing it up with some random Arsenal players:
"Go to Barça, I'll join you in four seasons."
What do these three all have in common? Hint: They're not at Arsenal anymore.
Barcelona began enduring Hlebruary July 16, 2008, when the club completed the medical and transfer for Alexander for a fee of 15 million Euros, with an additional 2 million if Barça won the league title in that season or the following season. The contract was for four years with a hilarious buyout clause of 90 million.
Read into this photo any way you'd like.
After only appearing in five games in his first season at Barça, he admitted that he wouldn't mind going back to the German Bundesliga.
At the end of the season, he turned down an offer to join Inter and instead decided to Hleb VfB Stuttgart while on loan. After that season, he made his triumphant return to the EPL by agreeing to a season-long loan to Birmingham City and most famously declared this in an interview:
After spending this summer in limbo, he was loaned out to VfB Wolfsburg and will remain so until Dec. 31, 2011. Hopefully someone will be kind enough to
1. He and his brother have been capped for Belarus.
2. Hleb was called "Zauberlehrling" or "Wizard's Apprentice" for his ~silky skills~ and ~dazzling~ tricks in Germany when he played in the Bundesliga.
3. SOMEONE ACTUALLY GETS HLEBBED ALL THE TIME! He married Anastasia Kosenkova, a former member of the Belarusian singing group "Topless," in 2008.
Uh, that's about it. Thank you for enjoying Uncle Sandro's story time!
(Sorry this was a bit long. The journalist in me wouldn't stop. At least it kept me from cliffing myself at the news that ~Zlatan~ isn't playing in tomorrow's game.)
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