Hatem Ben Arfa has always caused controversy in football. His childish spats and lack of any loyalty have resulted in departures from Lyon and Marseille, two of the biggest teams in France. The twenty-three-year-old has now joined newly promoted side Newcastle United as they look to add some creative flair to their side. And the French forward certainly has that in his locker.
Ben Arfa is the son of a Tunisian father and a French mother. He has been hailed as the next big star for France, coming up through the ranks with such players as Karim Benzema, currently of Real Madrid, and Arsenal’s Abou Diaby. The forward possesses fine skill and great footwork, whilst also having a good eye for goal. The French international has scored sixteen goals in 127 appearances for Marseille and Lyon collectively, although most of those appearances were from the substitute bench.
Since the age of fifteen Ben Arfa, who plays mainly on the wing, has been labelled a prodigy by French football fans. The 5ft. 10in. forward has scored two goals in eight appearances for the French national side, but Ben Arfa has yet to really set the world alight. With all the hype around the player, who was born in the south-western suburb of Clamart in France, the Premier League can expect tricks and creative genius from Ben Arfa. Unfortunately, Ben Arfa has another, darker side to his career.
The winger has had his fair share of controversy over the years. After some difficult seasons at giants Lyon Ben Arfa decided that he wanted to leave the club and, after a training session scuffle with Sebastien Squillaci, who recently joined Arsenal, the player’s departure was soon made. After some disagreements over the transfer fee Ben Arfa said that his former club were not a great team, stating that they lacked class. Marseille paid €11 million for the player in the summer of 2008, but his reputation for causing problems continued.
Ben Arfa fell out with another teammate, Modeste M’bami, during a warm-up session ahead of the club’s Champions League match against Liverpool a couple of seasons ago, with the two players having to be separated by Ronald Zubar.
Yet more problems followed after Marseille were thumped 4-2 by Paris Saint Germain. Manager Eric Gerets was irked somewhat after Ben Arfa refused to leave the bench to warm up for the game against Marseille’s rivals and, although Ben Arfa later said that he was injured, he did apologise to the media and to Gerets himself.
Even more controversy arose in 2009 when Ben Arfa was fined €10,000 by his club for missing a training session. The player stated that he was visiting family and there was a problem with his flight back to the country, but the relationship between club and player was clearly soured. Only a month later, Ben Arfa had a heated argument with manager Didier Deschamps in a training session, for which he later apologised.
The player has now joined Newcastle on a season-long loan after the North East club and Marseille agreed terms. When rumours of Ben Arfa’s departure surfaced, the player, much like in his original move to Marseille, announced to the media that he would not be returning to Marseille in order to push the Premier League deal through; the debate of player power still rumbles on.
Ben Arfa skipped training sessions in order to make the move to Newcastle more likely and, after missing the first two league games, his number ten shirt at Marseille was given to Andre-Pierre Gignac. It is believed that Newcastle have agreed to pay Marseille £2 million for the loan, while Ben Arfa has been given the number thirty-seven shirt for the St. James’ Park outfit.
The winger will join Joey Barton in the Toon squad; Barton is infamously hostile and, with Alan Smith and Kevin Nolan in the middle for Newcastle, Chris Hughton has a strong and feisty midfield. Hughton has done well to cope with Barton after his past-troubles but the former Manchester City midfielder has himself admitted that he wants to turn his life around while Ben Arfa, on the other hand, seems to be another example of a kid that is given too much too soon.
If Ben Arfa can hack it in the Premier League, with the strength, power and speed of the game, then he could be a great player for Newcastle. His creativity and quality on the ball will be a huge asset to the side, while his final ball could be improved as the season goes on. If Hughton can keep a lid on the players’ ego and controversial ways, which would be very difficult for any manager never mind a manager that has little experience, then Newcastle have themselves a great loan deal.