PSG: The Curious Case of Hatem Ben Arfa

You may remember Hatem Ben Arfa for his spell at Newcastle from 2011 to 2015. But the Frenchman really caught the public eye at Nice, where he revitalized his career during the 2015-16 season.

Scoring 17 times in only twice that number of league appearances, Ben Arfa showed off some world-class moves. As you can see here:

He had caught the attention of a number of big clubs in Europe. Rumours flew that had him to any of Barcelona, Lyon, Leicester or Sevilla. Though it was finally PSG who won the chase for his services on a 10M€ a year contract.

During the 2015-16 summer transfer saga, PSG lost Zlatan to Manchester United whilst also notably failing to recruit Neymar. This despite some seriously arousing cash supposedly to have been on the table. Mundo Deportivo mentioned a yearly salary of 25-30M€ (that’s 480,000€ pre-tax a week) with a 40M€ signing bonus. Yet this never eventuated.

Ben Arfa was thought to be decent enough to make up for the Brazilian but has now been sidelined for around a month. He didn’t feature in PSG’s Champions League team sheets and seems clearly out of favour of recently-appointed manager Unai Emery. The Spaniard mentioned a certain laziness during training sessions as the reason for the player’s situation. A fair argument but with PSG only fourth in Ligue 1 after 7 games; the fans had become impatient to see one of their more entertaining players on the pitch.

And this lust of the fans was evidenced when Ben Arfa finally reappeared late in PSG’s 2-0 win over Bordeaux at the weekend. Coming on in place of Lucas in the 78th minute, he received a generous and rousing recommendation from the home support. Whilst given little opportunity to influence the contest in this brief cameo, it remains to be seen how much influence the fan adoration can have on Emery’s reluctance to play him.

In the case that Ben Arfa’s situation does not improve, he will surely become a prime target during the next transfer window. This may be especially so for Premier League clubs who looking for a somewhat risky but potentially high-reward gamble. At 29 years of age, he still has plenty to offer and will without a doubt want to prove himself again to his doubters. He has shown at Nice exactly what he can do when given an extended run in the team.

If Ben Arfa is to leave PSG soon; the Parisian club could always go in for his replacement at Nice. But it seems doubtful Mario Balotelli would provide the commitment in training that Emery demands.

Ary Schlumberger


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