Hatem Ben Arfa (OGC NICE) : RELOADED !


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France’s enfant terrible, is back in his favorite playground of Clairefontaine the Bleus training centre,  a place who remind him childhood memories, when he starred in Canal+ series of A  la Clairefontaine, a french feature about the everyday life of 12/15 year-old would be footballers, chosen between the best of the nation.

images (46)Since then he came back  several times, but today  it was the first time since his banishment for bad behaviour from former France’s Manager Laurent Blanc, three years ago.

Didier Deschamps  Les Bleus current boss, knows him well ; he was coaching  him during his Olympique de Marseille  years and had as several  of his colleagues many problems with the French’s playmaker behaviour in and out of the pitch. Problems seem to be this  player’s curse, despite his unquestionable talent.

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It began after Clairefontaine’s final year  studies and his signing to French Ligue 1 Champions, Olympique Lyonnais in 2004; he wanted to be the club’s golden boy, but how could he when another young prodigy, Karim Benzema was blocking the way ?

 

images (47)Both of them had played in France’s Youth teams and won the 2004 UEFA European Under-17 Football Championship, with two other future stars, Jérémy Menez and Samir Nasri, two other  enfants terribles to add in France’s  football woes. Ben Arfa’s return makes him the unique survivor of  the 1987 golden generation.(Editor’s note: Karim Benzema is absent due to problems with the French justice and the two others are no more wanted in the team.)

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Lyon did good business(£12M) by selling him to Olympique de Marseille (2008), thus permitting  a new opportunity to shine for  the Parisian suburb born. Marseille was the player’s own choice, despite Everton and Arsenal interest. His time in the Phocian club was all ups and downs as it was previously in Lyon” the team lacked class and the club was a small one”  dixit the player  after leaving his first club. Ben Arfa’s behaviour at his worst?  Returning late (blamed the delay on the plane’s schedule) after the international break, many disputes with his team mates like the one with Cameroon international Modeste M’Bami, just before the UEFA’s Champions League game vs Liverpool and most of all several heated arguments with  his coach, Didier Deschamps. Marseille’s win of the Ligue1 Championship  was vastly due to the player’s crucial goals, but ….

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After two years of Mediterranean sun, the player demanded  his transfer towards grey skies and fog,  to Newcastle’s FC despite president Jean-Claude Dassier will,  to keep him in Marseille’s squad.  On 27 August 2010 Ben Arfa agreed to personal terms and signed a year’s loan contract with the English club. He scored the winner against Everton and  after he’s got injured( a broken tibia and fibula during the game vs Manchester City, curtesy of Nigel De Jong), Marseille came to an agreement with Newcastle and sold the player for an unclosed fee. After several months of rehabilitation the Frenchman returned to his club, only to be injured again (ankle) in a friendly against Kansas Sporting City.

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The next seasons (2012-13 and 2013-14) were a mix of injuries and wonder goals, so it was very surprising to hear that the player was loaned to Hull City for the 2014-15 season. Even more surprising to learn that Ben Arfa had left (December 2014) the club and England for an unknown destination, but not for long; on 5 January 2015 the Frenchman signed a deal with Ligue 1 club, OGC Nice and claimed that his mind was made up and even Real Madrid couldn’t change this decision. Was it a wise one? Having played for two different clubs, he wasn’t allowed to play in France or in any other European country, but he insisted that he will re-sign with the Southern  club for the next season, 2015-16 “because in Nice people trust me and don’t judge me through the press cuttings.”

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Since then, he played 13 games, scored seven and assisted twice; OGC Nice are sixth on the League Table, only two points from the fourth place. His good form helped not only his team mates but also opened the door for a last chance/opportunity to show that the previous trouble-maker have changed and he’s trying to make amends, but is he ? Here’s some quotes of his latest press conference at Clairefontaine, the place where everything started: “It’s really a pride to be back here, after three years of absence. It’s a rebirth, also a big reward. I discussed my departure from Marseille with Didier Deschamps; there were no excuses but we put things right. I’m here to give my best so that the French team can go forwards. There are many things that have changed, in the Chateau(of Clairefontaine). The physio room is different,  there’s a new fitness room downstairs and when after my arrival went looking for the restroom, I was lost !(laughs).

Here’s the player’s highlights, this season:

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