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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Jul 23, 2008

Hleb thanks 'father' Wenger

Alexander Hleb has thanked Arsene Wenger for helping him win his 'dream' move to Barcelona as he revealed family life was a big factor in his decision to leave Arsenal.

Hleb, who moved to the Catalan club in a deal worth at least £11.8million earlier this month, hinted at his unhappiness with life off the pitch in 'hectic' London.

But he likened Wenger to a father and called Cesc Fabregas his 'best friend' as he repeated his denial of critical comments attributed to him before his move.

The Belarus midfielder was reported to have branded Fabregas 'selfish' and spoken of tactical disagreements with the Arsenal boss.

But, back on British soil as his new team train at St Andrews, Hleb took the opportunity to thank Wenger for his guidance during his three-year spell in north London.

Hleb also spoke of his optimism for life off the pitch now he has swapped the busy festive fixture schedule of the Barclays Premier League for the winter break of the Primera Liga.

'I am from Belarus and I was always with my family in December for Christmas and New Year, and it is very important,' he said. 'London was very hectic, it was really just football that helped me in that life.

'I wanted a change and Barcelona for me are the biggest team. It is my dream and I'm very happy. Now this is a different league and I hope I adapt as quickly as possible.'

Hleb revealed Thierry Henry was helping him settle at the club, and he was also grateful to other former Arsenal colleagues.

'I never said anything bad about Arsene or Fabregas,' the 27-year-old added. 'This was just an English newspaper saying this.

'For me, Fabregas is my best friend and I had a good understanding with him on the pitch.

'Arsene Wenger, for me, is like a father. He gave me a lot and I learned a lot from him and I need to say thank you to him for the fact that I now play in Barcelona.'

Hleb added: 'If Arsene Wenger stays at Arsenal, they will always play at the top. I think he is everything for Arsenal.'

Hleb is likely to make his first appearance for his new team in the coming days as they face Hibernian at Murrayfield tomorrow night and Dundee United on Saturday.

In his last match in the country, Hleb and Belarus ended Scotland's hopes of qualifying for the 2006 World Cup with a 1-0 victory at Hampden.

And he hopes to have another successful visit getting to know his new colleagues.

'These are good games for us,' the former Stuttgart player said. 'It is very important as well because we have a lot of new players at the club.

'We also need to learn how good our understanding is, and it's important as well that there are no injuries, so I hope they are not so aggressive.'

Carles Puyol, Xavi and Andres Iniesta are joining up with their team-mates today after reporting to the Nou Camp this morning for a medical.

The trio were given extra time off after playing an integral part in Spain's Euro 2008 success.

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