Hatem Ben Arfa: L’enfant terrible to transfer to Leicester City?

The French expression of l’enfant terrible describes a successful genius who tends to be offensive and rebellious. Many in the French media would use this expression to describe the attacking talent of Hatem Ben Arfa.

It was reported earlier in the week that Claude Puel was thinking of trying to reunite himself with maverick PSG winger Hatem Ben Arfa. Following a magical year with Nice under Puel in 2015-16 he was heavily linked with giants Barcelona before he chose to go to Paris. Ben Arfa has only made 23 appearances for the Parisian giants in over a year. He has been unable to compete with the likes of Julian Draxler, Javier Pastore and Angel Di Maria for a starting berth. Ben Arfa has always been a mercurial talent.

Hatem Ben Arfa: L’enfant terrible to Leicester?

When Ben Arfa started his career at Lyon many predicted he would be great. He is one of many French stars like Samir Nasir who have been possibly cursed by “the new Zidane” tag. With just 15 international caps for someone who was expected to be a star. When you consider that similar talents Mathieu Valbuena and Youann Gourcuff have earned more appearances for the national side. Ben Arfa played in Euro 2012 following a stellar season with Newcastle. However, he went on to argue with Laurent Blanc during France’s defeat to Sweden. This led to Ben Arfa needing to publicly apologize to the World Cup Winner. Similar issues have occurred at club level. PSG manager Unai Emery has reportedly been frustrated with Ben Arfa’s attitude in training. Emery is not alone in confrontations with the talented winger as Didier Deschamps, Alan Pardew and Steve Bruce can attest.

A look at his time in England, with Newcastle

At Newcastle, Ben Arfa was magical at times. You only have to look on Youtube at his Messi-esque goals against Bolton and Blackburn to see that. Linking up with Demba Ba and Yohan Cabaye, his ability to go past defenders and score solo goals gained the admiration of the faithful Geordie fans. When those two players left, Newcastle unraveled. Ben Arfa’s form also declined, as did his relationship with much-maligned Alan Pardew. Pardew seemed to prefer the wasteful Gabriel Obertan to Ben Arfa. To many fans, this made no sense.

Pardew seemed to make Ben Arfa a scape-goat for games where Newcastle lost. He would often place blame on the winger for a lack of tracking back. Fans were keen to see Ben Arfa in the team but Pardew had made his mind up that he was fed up with Ben Arfa’s argumentative and lax attitude. Ben Arfa went on to an abysmal loan spell at Hull. Steve Bruce ran out of patience with him and questioned his desire. It seemed to vindicate Pardew’s opinion. If this move goes through, Ben Arfa will be hoping to complete some unfinished business in the Premier League. He will also potentially push for a recall to the national side.

A Leicester Future?

If Leicester do decide to go for him it will be interesting to see if Puel is able to fit Ben Arfa and Riyad Mahrez into the same system. Both are not the best at tracking back and both tend to occupy the same positions. Another problem for the French manager is that Demarai Gray is in great form and the arrival of Ben Arfa may stifle the ex-Birmingham winger. Puel though knows how to get the best out of Ben Arfa and if he can get him firing again Leicester may be able to push for a top ten place.

At Leicester, he possibly could play in the number 10 role and be the playmaker. This has maximised his talents in the past. However, many feel Ben Arfa is a ticking timebomb in terms of disciplinary issues and so it is definitely a gamble for the Foxes.

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