He is one behind Sergei Gotsmanov, who claimed the prize a record four times in 1983, 1985, 1987 and 1989. "I am very pleased, but I would be happier if this award came along with better performances from the national team. I mean the fact that we missed out on the FIFA World Cup."
Hleb acknowledged that his best form has been reserved for his clubs VfB Stuttgart and, since July, Arsenal. "At club level, you play together for years, and I know who is going to make a run where and when. In the national team, I only have this understanding with [Vitali] Kutuzov. It's not easy to get players brought together from different clubs to think the same way," he said.
Despite some impressive displays since joining Arsenal, Hleb's time at the UEFA Champions League contenders has been hampered by injury, and he has not played since October after undergoing knee surgery on an injury picked up on international duty.
'We will catch up'
He is expected to return in two weeks, and his first job is to drag Arsenal back into the Premiership title race. "I have no doubt that we are strong enough to fight for the title with Chelsea FC and Manchester United FC. Our best games are ahead of us, and we will catch up," he said. Hleb scooped the award with 671 points, far ahead of his closest rival Denis Kovba of Krylya Sovetov Samara, who scored just 170. UC Sampdoria forward Kutuzov took third place with 146 points.
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