Bacary Sanga has featured alongside some world class players during his career, but the Manchester City right-back has made the surprise revelation that former Arsenal midfielder Alexander Hleb was the very best.
Signed from Stuttgart in June 2005 for €15 million, Hleb made 130 total appearances during his three seasons with the Gunners, recording 10 goals and 16 assists, before moving on to Barcelona in the summer of 2008.
Sagna, meanwhile, arrived at the Emirates from Auxerre in 2007 and, though the pair were teammates for just one season, The French international has revealed that he felt in awe of Hleb’s outstanding skill and technique.
‘To me, the best player I’ve ever played with was Alexander Hleb,’ he told City’s official Youtube channel.
‘When I first joined Arsenal he was just magic. He could do anything with the ball – dribble, score goals, he had a great ability to do anything with the ball the way he wanted to.
‘He was always calm with the ball, and had the skills where he could be very dangerous against any team and, as I said, he was just magic in training.’
Part of Barca’s 2009 treble-winning campaign, Hleb’s career went into considerable decline following his move to Spain, with the Belarusian international sent out on loan to former club Stuttgart, Birmingham City and Wolfsburg, respectively, over the next three seasons.
Released by the Catalan giants in January 2012, the 33-year-old playmaker has since taken in spells at Russian side Krylia Sovetov Samara, boyhood outfit BATE Borisov and current club Torku Konyaspor in the Turkish Super League.
A well-regarded talent during his time with the Gunners, he has admitted on several occasions that he made a grave mistake leaving north London, telling the Guardian in 2009: ‘Of course I regret leaving Arsenal.
‘I was playing every week for one of the most exciting sides in Europe, a team which was always in the top four in the Premier League and were Champions League contenders.
‘Also, I was being guided by one of the best coaches in the world in Arsène Wenger. I owe him a great deal. I developed a better all-round game under him and I became more robust physically, learnt to look up more and play better passes and generally improved greatly as a team player.
‘No player ever gets worse under Wenger. For me, leaving Arsenal was not a good move.’