Arsenal

Hatem Ben Arfa…

Labelled as one of the next big stars to come out of France, Hatem Ben Arfa has not quite reached the heights that many had expected.

Along with the likes of Karim Benzema and Samir Nasri, Ben Arfa forms part of the younger French generation, given the task of replacing the ‘old guard’ within the French national team, players which achieved such great success, both individually and collectively.

The Frenchman is currently amongst the 30 man preliminary squad for the World Cup and will be hoping to make his mark this summer.

Ben Arfa began his senior career with Lyon in 2004, the same time as Benzema, but it wasn’t until the 2006/07 season when he was to score his first goal for the club.

The summer of 2008 began with a wave of rumour after it became clear that Ben Arfa would be leaving Lyon. Many, myself included, were surprised when he eventually signed for Marseille, a big club certainly, but not as successful at that time as some of the other clubs said to have been fighting for his signature. After winning four Ligue 1 titles with Lyon, what was left for the Frenchman to achieve by staying in France? The lure of a new league and new competitions seemed too strong for Ben Arfa to resist.

Manchester United, Arsenal and Real Madrid were all interested in the player, but Ben Arfa seemed happy to remain in France. He can perhaps feel justified in his decision to join Marseille, after their success of last season in winning the league.

Again being linked with moves away from France this summer, the player’s stock appears to have fallen somewhat with Europe’s leading clubs not showing the same level of interest as they had previously. The Frenchman has certainly had his fair share of confrontation and disciplinary problems at Lyon and Marseille, something that may be off-putting to any potential bidders. Ben Arfa’s goal scoring record is also not particularly striking, with just 24 goals and 16 assists in 173 career appearances. This is an area of his game that he appears to have struggled to improve over the last few years. In the tougher surroundings of the Premier League or La Liga, managers may be questioning the impact Ben Arfa will be able to make.

Everton are the club most strongly linked in England, a move that could prove beneficial to the young Frenchman. Joining a solid team such as Everton may prove a better destination, at this stage, than if he were to join one of the elite, such as Manchester United, another rumoured bidder, where the pressure and focus would be immediate. In trying to recapture the form and reputation, which saw the world’s leading clubs chase his signature, the calmer atmosphere of Goodison Park may be a good place to begin in new surroundings. On the basis of current success, common football sense, tells us however that any straight choice between Manchester United and Everton and Ben Arfa is highly likely to be running out at Old Trafford rather than Goodison Park come August.

Recent rumour also suggests a move to Paris Saint Germain may be an option for the Frenchman. This would be another surprise move, joining yet another French team. This appears a long shot.

Much will obviously depend on Marseille’s attitude towards a sale, and if willing to negotiate, the money they will demand. After arriving at the Stade Velodrome for 11 million euros, it is doubtful whether they will receive any willing bidders upwards of this amount. If Ben Arfa does make the final squad for the World Cup though, and performs well, many more suitors will appear, and any transfer fee will inevitably rise. South Africa could be his opportunity to shine once more.

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