‘Champagne player'


A series of impressive performances under the guidance of Pardew this season have ensured that Hatem Ben Arfa has established himself as a key player who is capable of producing moments of sheer technical brilliance. Over to Tom Coleman.

Hatem Ben Arfa has experienced his fair shares of ups and downs in his career so far — and that is just during his time at Newcastle.

The man dubbed by boss Alan Pardew as Newcastle's “champagne player” has formed a formidable attacking trio behind Senegal duo Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse, as the Magpies continue their surprise charge towards European qualification.

Newcastle fans were only given a brief glimpse of the midfielder's talents when he was first brought to the club on loan from Marseille by previous manager Chris Hughton.

A stunning strike at Everton in September 2010 made him an instant hit with the Toon Army, but he suffered a broken tibia and fibula against Manchester City in October 2010 and was ruled out for the rest of the season.

Many were left wondering if he would ever recapture the form that had led him to be labelled as a prodigy in France.

But it seems that they need not have worried, as a series of impressive performances under the guidance of Pardew this season have ensured the Frenchman has established himself as a key player who is capable of producing moments of sheer technical brilliance.

Football has always been a part of Ben Arfa's life, with his father Kamel a former Tunisia international. Ben Arfa senior quickly noticed that his son shared his passion for football and he began training with local club ASV Chatenay Malabry aged just six.

Ben Arfa spent two years at ASV before moving north to join Montrough CF 92. A year-long spell at AC Boulogne-Billancourt followed, before he was selected to join the Clairefontaine Academy in 1999, becoming the only underage player in his class at the age of 12.

Other players in Ben Arfa's class at Clairefontaine include Tottenham defender Sebastian Bassong and Arsenal midfielder Abou Diaby, who had an infamous clash with Ben Arfa in a documentary entitled A la Clairefontaine — which followed the progress of France's finest youngsters.

After graduating from the Academy in 2002, Ben Arfa secured a move to French champions Lyon, eventually making his senior debut in the opening game of the 2004/05 season against Nice.

The midfielder went on to make 64 appearances for the club, netting seven times, and quickly establishing himself as one of the hottest properties in European football.

But Ben Arfa's time at the club was brought to an end in 2008 due to a training ground bust-up with Sebastian Squillaci. Despite rumoured interest from Manchester United, Everton, Arsenal, and Real Madrid, Ben Arfa decided to sign for French rivals Marseille in the summer of 2008 for just under GBP10 million.

Ben Arfa produced some moments of magic during his time with the French giants, but he was never far from controversy. After winning the French title and the Cope de la Ligue he was on the move again in the summer of 2010, joining Newcastle on loan initially and then despite sustaining that horrific injury against City he signed a permanent deal.

Ben Arfa looks to be a shrewd acquisition and he has set his sights on starring for both club and country — and on current form more honours are almost certain to follow.

Ben Arfa is not married and it is not known if he is currently dating anyone.

* * * FACTFILE Name: Hatem Ben Arfa Position: Midfielder Club: Newcastle DOB: 07/04/1987 International caps: 8 International goals: 2

Moment to remember: Receiving his first call-up to the France senior squad in October 2007.

Moment to forget: Training ground bust-ups with team-mates Djibril Cisse and Modeste M'bami during his time at Marseille.

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