The Bulgarian schemer may be on to something, having worked with two of the best in the business and seen them up close.
Hleb has played for both Arsene Wenger (at Arsenal from 2005-08) and Pep Guardiola (at FC Barcelona 2008-12) during his professional career. Sport 360 reports Hleb says Wenger taught him more about the game than Guardiola, and there are better managers than the legendary former Barcelona boss.
“I learned more from Wenger than Guardiola, but Pep is a good coach,” Hleb reportedly told Esports en Xarxa.
“Guardiola is not the best coach in the world because he coached the best team in the world, with the best players, and that’s why he won. It’s hard not to win with a team like that and [Tito] Vilanova will have the greatest success.
“The best coaches in the world are [Jose] Mourinho, [Sir Alex] Ferguson and [Arsene] Wenger.”
Hleb’s claims caught some off guard, as Guardiola won 14 major trophies in four years as Barcelona manager. The 41-year-old stepped down from his post at the end of the 2011-12 season, citing a need to “recharge” his batteries. He is currently living in New York City while considering his next move, but he is the world’s most in-demand manager.
Hleb joined Barcelona from Arsenal in a £13.7 million ($22 million) transfer, but he failed to make an impact at the Camp Nou. He spent one unhappy season at Barcelona before joining VfB Stuttgart, Birmingham and Wolfsburg on loan in successive seasons. He had little impact at those three clubs, perhaps suggesting that he didn’t learn much from Guardiola. He returned to Bulgaria last summer, joining UEFA Champions League darlings BATE Borisov. The 31-year-old takes full blame for his inability to make the grade at Barcelona.
“I was very ambitious and wanted to play more but Barca played each player for a certain amount of minutes,” he said. “For me, that was not enough. I was angry and wanted more, which was why we had some conflicts with Guardiola, but now I understand it was the nonsense and tantrums of a little boy.”
Hleb raises intersting points. Guardiola was wildly successful, but he had a star-studded squad, which included all-time greats like Xavi, Andres Iniesta, and the incomparable Lionel Messi. Perhaps Ferguson, Wenger, Mourinho or Sam Allardyce (joking) — each iconic managers in their own right — would have won as many (or even more) trophies as Guardiola with that sort of talent at their disposal.
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