When Ben Arfa came to Newcastle on loan in 2010, it turned many heads. A player smothered with issues at Lyon and Marseille – but Newcastle and himself were a match made in heaven. A club with a history of French playmakers loving their spells at the club. Even when signing permanently for £5m or so, it seemed too good to be true. This was a player, when at Lyon, was rated above Karim Benzema!
It started so well, a worldy against Everton from 25 yards. Fans adored him, his skill and trickery was something not seen since the days of Ginola and Robert. After a ‘Rustic’ challenge by Nigel De Jong and a double leg break, his season was over. The following summer after returning, he suffered another injury during a pre-season friendly. He was a little fragile at times. When fit, he was statistically the best dribbler in the league.
In his 4 years at Newcastle, 86 games – 14 goals, 18 assists. He never scored a dull goal, bar one a few penalties. He scored some absolute stonkers – Blackburn, Villa, Fulham, Bolton, Everton – either from 25/30 yards out, or like Bolton and Blackburn, dribbling through multiple players from the halfway line. His strike against Rovers was included in the FIFA goal of the year awards.
He, along with Papiss Cisse and Demba Ba, led Newcastle to 5th place in the 11/12 season. The season after, injuries saw them him play just 3 games in the Europa League and only half of the 38 league games. This is when his Fallout with Alan Pardew began. Then manager of Newcastle, he was insistent on the Frenchman tracking back, and doing a lot of defensive work, and historically this was never going to go down well. I remember Sir Bobby stating that he didn’t want Laurent Robert anywhere near the penalty box of his own side.
Ben Arfa gave away a few free kicks in bad places, gave the ball away cheaply inside his own half and even the odd penalty If I remember correctly. That season the team were nearly relegated, and injury kept him out of long periods of the season. He was also in the Euro 2012 squad for France, thanks to his form in the previous season.
The 13/14 season ended up being his last. 3 goals in 30 games, strops, fallouts with both managers and players. However, he knew the fans were on his side and played on this. Reporting back to pre-season massively overweight, and not wanted in the team by captain Coloccini. Eventually, Pardew forced him out and sent him on loan to Hull. After 8 games, Steve Bruce terminated his loan, due to attitude issues. There was no way he was going back to Newcastle under Pardew, and even though he went to Palace, days later he agreed to terminate his contract and move back to France with Nice.
If put in the right team, he could rekindle his old self and get back to what he used to be. With little pressure and media coverage at Nice, it will be interesting to see. He once was seen as a bigger talent than Karim Benzema. 10 years on from bursting onto the scene at Lyon, Bezema is at Real Madrid holding the Champions League, Ben Arfa has fallen out with every single manager he has played under, and is back in France with Nice. The boy has talent, but unfortunately he has bigger issues elsewhere which have pretty much ruined his career.