It has been a year since the former Newcastle man last played competitively after a spectacular fall from grace at Parc des Princes this time two years ago, there was a clamour for Hatem Ben Arfa to be included in Didier Deschamps’ squad for Euro 2016.
The 31-year-old playmaker was coming off the back of a stellar year for Nice, in which he had scored 17 goals and directly created six more. Ben Arfa had shown an eye for the spectacular, often cutting through packs of defenders to score goals in a style reminiscent of Lionel Messi. It was thrilling to watch.
He may have been snubbed by Deschamps, but his form was sufficient for Paris Saint-Germain to gamble on him as a Bosman signing. Trouble has invariably followed him for the duration of his career. Spells at Lyon, Marseille and Newcastle ended in acrimonious circumstances, and his time in Paris will be the same. Only at Nice has he left with the recognition his qualities on the field deserve.
A simple joke to Shaykh Tamim al-Thani, the Emir of Qatar, about never being able to get in touch with President Nasser Al Khelaifi lit the fuse that ended his time at the club. Furious, Al Khelaifi swore the player would never again turn out for the team – a promise he has made good upon.
What should have been two years at his absolute zenith have been largely frittered away doing tricks in the shadows in training. It is lamentable that such a thrilling player should have spent his time this way, but with a wage in the region of €4 million a year, it is easy to see why Ben Arfa might have chosen to spend it this way.
Gluts of clubs are ready to move for the free agent come the summer, but Ben Arfa is set to be typically haughty with his demands. Turkey and Greece do not interest him and neither, apparently, does MLS. Instead, he is ideally targeting a Champions League club.
Do you think he can find a club and return to the peak of his career?