Hleb admits career has gone backwards

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The Independent Football

Alex Hleb claims that his move to Stuttgart from Barcelona is a backward step in his career.

The Belarus international has joined the Bundesliga side on a season-long loan after struggling to break into the first team at the Spanish club during his debut season in La Liga.

"It's true that I have taken a step back in my career, but sometimes it's necessary to take one step back to take two steps forward. Let's see how the season goes," explained the former Arsenal midfielder.

"It was hard to resign myself to not getting game time, but if the team wins every game, how can you complain to the coach?"

Hleb spent five years with Stuttgart before joining Arsenal in 2005.

Werder Bremen and Germany defender Per Mertesacker has warned fans and pundits not to put too much pressure on rising star Mesut Ozil.

The 20-year-old midfielder scored his first international goal in a 2-0 friendly win over South Africa at the weekend, but Mertesacker is wary of rising expectations.

He told the German Football Federation’s official website: “It would be, I believe, wrong and still too early to push him into the leading role.

“He has only just come on the scene and needs his freedom. He absolutely has to preserve his carefree nature.

“He came as a small, shy kid from Schalke to Werder. At the time we were well blessed in the position with Diego.

“With his formidable strengths he quickly came through. He has an incredible speed on the ball and is technically strong.”

Hamburg’s defensive midfielder Collin Benjamin faces a lengthy spell out of action after suffering a serious knee injury while on international duty with Namibia.

The 31-year-old tore ligaments in his left knee in a weekend friendly with Swaziland and the full extent of the problem will be assessed this week.

Hamburg team doctor, Nikolai Linewitsch, told the club's official website: “Collin will be missing for several months.

“The kind of treatment needed will be decided in the next few days.”

Benjamin has been with Hamburg for eight years, but had not featured in any of the club’s opening four Bundesliga games of the new season.