Hleb heads back to Stuttgart

MADRID - Barcelona midfielder Aleksandr Hleb has agreed a one-year loan move to former club VfB Stuttgart after failing to win a starting spot at the European champions, the clubs said on Thursday. The Belarus international had originally been included in the swap deal that took Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Barca from Inter Milan with Samuel Eto'o going in the opposite direction on Monday. However, Hleb said he preferred a return to the Bundesliga and his old club Stuttgart. "I decided on VfB because the team has such great potential and I am convinced we can reach it together," Hleb told the club website. The 28-year-old struggled to break into Pep Guardiola's treble-winning side last season and had been left out of the Barcelona squad for their tour of the United States, which started on Wednesday. Hleb joined Barca from Arsenal on a four-year contract for around 18 million euros last year. He played five seasons with Stuttgart before his switch to the Premier League in 2005. "With Hleb, we have the commitment of a world class player who will further increase the quality in our squad," said Stuttgart sports director Horst Heldt. Stuttgart were looking to replace top striker Mario Gomez, who switched to Bayern Munich for over 30 million euros in the Bundesliga's most expensive transfer.