Popularity on the wane

It appears Hatem Ben Arfa’s days in England could be numbered, writes Phil Winter.

Hatem Ben Arfa’s season-long loan move to Hull City was the final straw for many Newcastle fans already protesting at Alan Pardew’s management of the club back in September.

Just three months later, the protests have stopped, Newcastle are flying high in the English Premier League and it is Ben Arfa whose popularity is fading as he proves just how quickly fortunes can change in football.

Having been banished to the reserves by Pardew for a supposed ‘lack of professionalism’, Ben Arfa was delighted to complete his move to Hull just as the transfer window closed.

The Tigers needed a two-hour extension to force the deal through in time and it was just before 1 a.m. that confirmation of the transfer was announced.

“Hatem is a superb addition to the squad, and brings attacking flair,” said Hull boss Steve Bruce at the time. “We look forward to welcoming him to the club.”

In contrast, Pardew was seemingly relieved to have moved the player on and stated: “It was not a risk letting Hatem go, in my opinion. It would have been an easy decision to keep him, but you have to make tough decisions and I made the decision because I think the players we have here have a love and a passion for the club, the shirt and for the fans.”

At the time, the deal was seen as something of a coup for Hull but now it is Bruce who is losing patience with the player. Ben Arfa was hauled off after just 35 minutes in the recent 3-0 defeat at Manchester United and was left out against Everton and West Brom.

Although the Hull boss insists there has been no bust-up, Ben Arfa has a history of arguments and disputes, once even refusing to leave the comfort of the bench at Marseille.

Ben Arfa was born in a Parisian suburb, before being raised in Chatenay-Malabry. His father, Kamel Ben Arfa, was also a professional footballer who represented Tunisia at international level.

At the age of 15, Ben Arfa joined Lyon, who had just won their first ever Ligue 1 title. After spending two years in the club’s youth academy, he rose through the ranks and in 2004 signed a three-year contract.

Ben Arfa spent much of his early playing career alongside Karim Benzema, who was promoted to Lyon’s senior squad at the same time, and the two endured a love-hate relationship.

Rumours of a training-ground rift with Benzema surfaced in 2008 and despite signing a contract extension that would have seen him remain at the club until 2010, another incident involving Sebastien Squillaci ended his spell at the French champions.

Despite attracting interest from a range of clubs, including Arsenal, Manchester United and Real Madrid, Ben Arfa signed for rivals Marseille in July 2008 for a fee in the region of GBP10 million.

After telling local French media that his former side Lyon “lacked class” and were “not a good team”, Ben Arfa’s promising start at Marseille, in which he scored six goals in his opening 11 matches, was again overshadowed by training-ground arguments with Djibril Cisse and Modeste M’bami.

The situation spiralled out of control as Ben Arfa refused to come off the bench in Marseille’s 4-2 defeat to La Classique rivals PSG, and was also later fined 10,000 Euros for missing a training session.

On August 27, 2010, after a proposed move to German side Werder Bremen collapsed, Newcastle announced they had signed Ben Arfa on a season-long loan for a fee around GBP2 million.

His first season in England was abruptly ended after a challenge from Manchester City’s Nigel De Jong on October 3 resulted in a broken tibia and fibula.

Ben Arfa’s remaining years at Newcastle were blighted by further injuries to his ankle, hamstring and knee, but when he was available he showed glimpses of his incredible ability with memorable goals against Blackburn, Bolton and Aston Villa.

After returning from the 2014 summer break a reported 1.5 kg overweight, Pardew ran out of patience. He tried and failed to offload the player to former club Lyon, Beskitas and Birmingham City before Hull City offered him a Premier League lifeline.

It is not one he has grasped though and his future now appears uncertain, with Bruce saying: “We will see what it brings and I will sit down with him and see where we are.”

It appears Ben Arfa’s days in England could be numbered.

FACTFILE NAME: Hatem Ben Arfa POSITION: Midfielder COUNTRY: France CLUB: Hull (on loan from Newcastle) DOB: 7/3/1987 INTERNATIONAL CAPS: 13 INTERNATIONAL GOALS: 2

MOMENT TO REMEMBER: A stunning solo goal against Bolton in 2012 when he picked up the ball in his own-half and beat four players before slotting the ball past goalkeeper Adam Bogdan.

MOMENT TO FORGET: His first season in English football was ended by a horror tackle from Manchester City's Nigel de Jong.

© PA Sport