(GSM) – Birmingham manager Alex McLeish has thanked Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger for their role in the signing of Alexander Hleb.
The Blues signed the 29-year-old on a season-long loan from Barcelona in what is seen as one of the best deals on transfer deadline day.
Former Arsenal midfielder Hleb was initially denied a permit to return to England as his national team, Belarus, are not among the top 70 in Fifa’s world rankings.
The Blues held firm and were successful with an appeal against the decision, and McLeish has hailed Ferguson and Wenger for their role in completing the signing.
“Both Sir Alex and Arsene Wenger gave us a headed notepaper endorsement of Hleb’s quality to play in England,” the Birmingham boss told his club’s official website.
“I think the panel were pretty positive about it anyway. But we had to make sure the panel were aware that Hleb was always a target and it helps when you have got two top managers endorsing a particular player.”
McLeish has also stated that Birmingham’s chief scout Paul Montgomery has been monitoring Hleb for years and expressed his delight at beating Portuguese champions Benfica to the deal.
The Scot said: “He was always on our list because Paul kept putting him on, but what chance had we got of getting someone like Hleb?
“Hleb was a little bit of a pipedream over the past couple of years, but all of a sudden, in the last three or four days, we were told it was possible and the board made it happen.”
McLeish added: “With the feedback we were getting, he was delighted to come.
“To go back to England, that was his first choice and to pip Benfica to get his services is a bit of a coup.”
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