Alex Hleb looks set to be the next midfielder to leave the Emirates this summer, according to his agent, who couldn’t have been more clear in his message:
“Alexander is preparing to make the most serious and important moves of his life. He is leaving Arsenal even though they want to offer him a new long-term contract and better conditions. Only time will tell if leaving is the right decision, but there’s no way back now. Everything will be cleared up in the next two weeks.”
Not a statement that leaves much open to interpretation, and Hleb’s loss is sure to anger many. After two poor seasons, he started this campaign very well, but as time went on he once again reverted to type, seemingly allergic to shooting and lacking the end product that his skill should be capable of.
Certainly, meeting Inter Milan while out for a Champions League tie was in particularly poor taste, and the ice cream denials that followed were quite frankly insulting. It remains to be seen whether Inter will offer Arsenal a cut price for him, or whether the Webster clause will be invoked, Hleb having become unprotected after three years in his contract.
Some light is shed on that question by Wenger’s response:
“We have not been in touch with any club about Alexander Hleb.”
Some are interpreting this as him saying that Hleb will stay, when in reality it seems that Hleb will invoke the clause and disappear, which would break the agreement the G14 clubs had, where they claimed they would not utilise the rule on each other.
My suspicion is that Inter will offer a cut price, possibly the same amount that Arsenal would be compensated by, and leave Wenger with absolutely no choice but to accept. The details of exactly how the clause works are sketchy, but the fee will be the remaining two years of Hleb’s wages, likely to be around 4m.
If he stays, he has a lot to prove next season. If he leaves, maybe we’ll get some goals from a player taking up one of the foremost attacking slots in the team. Either way, I’m not overly fussed.