As the transfer merry-go-round trundles on, the number of players linked to the Premier League increases. One such player is Olympique Marseille winger Hatem Ben Arfa. His troubles in the south of France have led to a number of English clubs coveting his services. But what do we know about the highly thought of player? Here at the Transfer Tavern we take a look at the talented Frenchman.
Hatem Ben Arfa began his career playing with local side Montrouge CF 92, he was then picked up by AC Boulogne-Billencourt, who are a prestigious sports clubs based I the suburbs of Paris. It was from here he was asked to attend the famed academy at Clairefontaine. During his time here he developed his talents and we also saw a glimpse into his darker side. A documentary was made called A la Clairefontaine”, which followed these new young French players during their residence and in this documentary you see Ben Arfa having a bit of handbags with Abou Diaby, now of Arsenal.
At 15 years of age Olympique Lyonnais picked up the kid labelled a ‘prodigy’ and he spent a further two years in the Lyon Academy honing his talents before being offered a professional contract and subsequent promotion to the first team squad, along with another talented youngster, Karim Benzema.
A fast tricky winger, Ben Arfa has tons of pace, excellent dribbling skills, an ability to spot the unexpected pass; he is also a dead ball specialist. So it seems the world was his oyster. It was.
He formed an almost telepathic understanding with fellow youth graduate Benzema. They were also great friends off the park as well. However, this relationship was to sour during Ben Arfa’s last year at the club. Some say it was because Ben Arfa was somewhat jealous of Benzema’s constant adulation and praise from others.
Sometimes cutting a frustrated figure, trying to do too much one match then being too tentative the next, team mate Juninho compared him to a 2006 Cristiano Ronaldo. Not a bad comparison to receive. As he became a more peripheral squad player.
It was during this time the traits of a troublesome player began to take over, constantly late for training, he became more recognisable for his temper tantrums than his playing ability. After a training ground spat with Sebastien Squillaci, he hankered for a move elsewhere.
Despite his obvious talent, the maturity had not developed at the same rate, meaning the top European clubs were wary about taking on the player. It soon developed that Marseille were in talks with Lyon about a move, but after these talks broke down Ben Arfa force Lyon’s hand buy proclaiming his love for Marseille and intention never to return to the Stade Gerland. A deal was struck soon after.
Upon his arrival in 2008, it seemed the old Hatem Ben Arfa had returned, displaying the skills, tricks and destructive nature of his play; he soon became a favourite of the fans. But it wasn’t long before he was involved in another scuffle in training, this time with new team mate Djibril Cissé. Cissé was soon offloaded to Sunderland in the aftermath. He was soon involved in another dispute, this time with the Cameroon international Modeste M’Bami following the club’s UEFA Champions League match with Liverpool. The pair had to be separated and battle lines were drawn.
His talent looks to be wasted scoring 6 times in his first 11 matches for Marseille and laying on a number of assists. Manager Eric Gerets asked him to warm up as a substitute, but Ben Arfa refused, claiming he was injured.
Since Didier Deschamps has taken over as manager, there have been a number of rows between the pair over his conduct. The attitude has returned and a few instances of lateness for training have not impressed strict disciplinarian Deschamps. He has since found himself on the bench a little more often than he would like and as such speculation grows over his future in France.
Manchester United, Everton and Arsenal have all been linked to the former wonderkid, but it remains to be seen if a change in surroundings can change this unruly player.
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