Newcastle from Marseille initially on loan in August 2011, several supporters thought it was too good to be true.
The talent of Ben Arfa was never a secret and the capture of the French international was heralded as a huge coup at St.James’s Park.
There has though always been the feeling that the 25 year old would inevitably move on when another opportunity to achieve Champions League stardom comes knocking.
Ben Arfa relishes taking on his opponent and being the star of the show. He may have spent his fair share of time on the treatment table since his arrival on Tyneside, but by the same token he has also shown why Wenger nearly signed him before he chose Samir Nasri instead in 2008.
The player certainly fits the category of being able to single handedly change a game. He may be a luxury at times when his teammates are trying to defend a lead. It it a different story though when Newcastle have needed to find an opening. The Frenchman is one who Pardeux as he’s called these days would often look towards for some inspiration or piece of magic.
The Former Marseille playmaker unashamedly can take his man on with pace and skill and this is a trait which has lead him to become a cult figure amongst the fans.
This popularity is currently strong but it is which is built upon very fragile foundations. When Demba Ba left in January there was almost a feeling resignation as the release clause had regularly been held over the club’s head. This would be a different kind of departure. There is a feeling that Frenchman still needs to pay his dues at St James’s Park with the new French Revolution being built around him.
If Ben Arfa were to openly express his desire to leave he will no such get out jail free card to flee Tyneside like he did with Marseille, with the Manager not wanting him to stay. Any departure from Newcastle will undoubtedly be a messy divorce if done in the wrong way.
This issue has sat in background for the majority of the Frenchman’s stay but came into the public prominence in January’s transfer window. Newcastle’s number 10 batted his eyelids when questioned about a future move to French Giants Paris Saint Germain, and this did the delicate situation no favours.
Ben Arfa took the risky move of professing his admiration for France’s leading force at this present time, but managed to remain unscathed for now. He managed to avoid any damage or rift in the relationship he has built up with the often difficult to please Newcastle United supporters by pledging his allegiance to the relegation fight his side are currently embroiled in. Should he express his desires to ply his trade elsewhere the issue may not be so heavily swept under the carpet next time.
It was a warning shot that the 25 year old has thought about moving elsewhere in the future, which would realise the fears several in Black and White have always wanted to avoid.
When they find a player they fall in love with in the North East it always is a wrench for them to lose their hero. The loss of Ben Arfa would definitely be comparable to the loss of Andy Cole to Manchester United under Kevin Keegan. It would destroy the faith Newcastle fans have that they are finally building for the future to be a European force once again.
They are comforted by the reality that their owner Mike Ashley is a businessmen who would charge a premium fee for a star asset who is now set for the peak years of his playing days, but this is not overly reassuring.
The clubs that could afford his transfer fee would be a very short list but would he be wise to consider a move from a club that resurrected his career?
This would not necessarily be unwise. The main issue lies within the timing. If Ben Arfa wants another crack at the whip with a Champions League team he needs to time it perfectly.
If he gets it wrong he will just be another aspirational waste of talent like Charles N’Zogbia who must rue his comments of wanting to leave Newcastle for a “big club” to this day, when the only club who came knocking at that time were Wigan.
If Hatem Ben Arfa is to move on he needs to move on terms that would suit Newcastle United so he can leave with their blessings. The reason why this is so crucial is because if one of Europe’s elite is to take him on they will need to be confident that the childish tantrums of his early playing days are well behind him. This means ensuring he stays part of the project next season.
It is also beneficial for him too as he desperately needs a season where he maintains full fitness for the whole campaign to allay any fears that Hatem Ben Arfa can’t handle the rigours of juggling European and League football.
Newcastle too are re-building for a season where they could replicate their 5th place finish in the 2011-12 season with their French arrivals which have rejuvenated them since January in the 2013/14 campaign. Ben Arfa could help build a bright future before flying the nest for Champions League football if he doesn’t achieve it at St. James’s Park next term and it could all work out well for him.
He may be able to get a cameo role now at one of Europe’s largest clubs but if he wants to be seen as the centre of attention and the man to turn to at the very highest level he needs to prove he is capable of it consistently at Newcastle United first.
If anyone has seen Hatem Ben Arfa play in the Premier League they will know that he will accept nothing less than being the main character of the play. If he is to earn that though he needs to play his supporting role and serve his full apprenticeship at Newcastle first.