Hatem Ben Arfa is finally proving he has that something special everyone once saw in him, but it has not been an easy ride for the former Newcastle winger.
Once a fan favourite at St James’ Park along with fellow countryman Yohan Cabaye, Ben Arfa returned to Newcastle for pre-season in August 2014, only to find himself playing with the reserves and the youth teams having been axed by Alan Pardew. A terrible humiliation for a player of his calibre.
How Newcastle would dearly love a player like Hatem Ben Arfa back now.
Steve Bruce took the maverick winger on loan to Hull in September 2014 after his fall out with Pardew, but Ben Arfa made just 9 appearances for Bruce’s side before seemingly disappearing from English football. In December, Bruce himself admitted he didn’t know where Ben Arfa had gone, but his loan spell at Hull looked to be over.
One month later, Ben Arfa was released from his contract by Newcastle. He signed for Nice just days later, but FIFA ruling meant he wasn’t eligible to play for the French side having already played for two clubs that season. The contract was terminated and Ben Arfa’s career looked to be going nowhere, until Nice resigned him in June 2015.
He has recently spoken out about his experience of ‘hell’, but the Frenchman is back firing on all cylinders once again. Now plying his trade in Ligue 1 for the third time – this time at Nice – Ben Arfa has earned a recall to the national squad by Didier Deschamps after an excellent start to the season in France.
The winger has taken his lifeline with open arms, scoring 7 goals in 13 games as well as creating 9 chances and picking up 2 assists for his new club, one of which was somewhat reminiscent of his goal against Bolton in 2012, and is well worth a watch on YouTube.
Some would say it’s a remarkable turn of events given the journey the wide-man has been on over the last year, but I for one am not surprised with his revival. On the ball he’s still a magician. Off it, he’s still more like a grumpy teenager who doesn’t get his own way, but that’s what’s so special about him. Ben Arfa has always been a diamond in the rough. He still has that flair, the ability to change the course of a game from nothing.
There is no doubt the talent is there for all to see, and whilst his ill-discipline and questionable attitude have no doubt let him down on more than one occasion, he looks to be heading in the right direction.
Ben Arfa could be in line to make an appearance against England next week at Wembley, and he’ll be hoping he can show the nation that never quite realised the full extent of his talent one or two things.
This is a man who has won 5 league titles and countless cups in France. You don’t achieve that unless you are an exceptional player. Maybe, people will start to give him the credit he deserves.