Barcelona sold 'drunk' Ronaldinho & Deco to protect Messi - Hleb

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The star names were offloaded shortly after Pep Guardiola took charge and the former Arsenal man says it was because of a lack of professionalism

Alexander Hleb says Barcelona sold Ronaldinho and Deco to protect Lionel Messi because the pair would often turn up to training drunk.

Ronaldinho and Deco were established world-class players at Camp Nou by the time Messi emerged from the Barca youth system in 2004 to impress alongside them in the first-team.

But the Brazil and Portugal internationals were sold in 2008 when Pep Guardiola took charge and refined the squad before overseeing an era of incredible success with the Catalan club.

Hleb, 38, joined the Blaugrana from Arsenal the same year Guardiola was appointed as Frank Rijkaard's successor and remembers Ronaldinho and Deco's antics.

“Ronaldinho and Deco came to training drunk," he told V OKA TV . "That's why Ronaldinho and Deco were sold in 2008. Because they were afraid that they would bring down Lionel Messi."

Although Hleb was part of Barcelona for four years, he made just 36 appearances in all competitions, spending the majority of his time on loan at Stuttgart, Birmingham and Wolfsburg before leaving for Russian side Krylia Sovetov Samara in 2012.

He then went on to have three different spells at BATE Borisov in between spells in Turkey.

But the Belarus international says that he did not want to join Barcelona in the first place and sees it as a turning point in his career.

"Frankly, I initially did not want to go to Barcelona at all," he added. "I wanted to go to Bayern Munich or stay at Arsenal. But the agents were telling me to go as it was Guardiola who was calling.

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“When I moved to Barca, I lived with Thierry Henry for a while. He said to me: 'Stay until you find something. What is in the hotel? It's boring'. And so I spent a month with him.

"He always said to me: 'Why did you go to Barca?! Well, call me, I would explain everything!'"

Although Hleb has not retired from football, he was released from BATE earlier this month and is without a club.

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