Hatem Ben Arfa, the up side of being a troubled genius and Euro 2016

At times, the most creative, gifted and mercurial footballers can come with a considerable amount of baggage.

Some won’t work back defensively, others struggle to handle the fact that their team-mates are not as technically gifted as them.

The likes of Diego Maradona, Brazilian playmaker Diego and the sublimely able Juan Román Riquelme come to mind when considering those in this category, but in the current game Hatem Ben Arfa is one of the most pertinent examples.

The skilful Frenchman has had his fair share of ups and downs throughout a career of great promise, with his current purple patch at Nice characterising the up side of a troubled genius.

Ben Arfa has been in inspired form since signing for the Allianz Riviera outfit and has fired the modest south coast club, almost single-handedly, to third in Ligue 1 and potential Champions League qualification.

A wonderful individual goal in Nice’s most-recent 3-0 win over Ajaccio characterised the main positive point of the Frenchman; unbelievable skill and charisma can, and have on plenty of occasions, won his side matches.

In the early days of the Clamart-born star’s career, many were talking Ben Arfa up as one of French football’s great future hopes and with good reason.

Upon breaking into the Lyon first-team, the attacker played a role in the club winning four consecutive Ligue 1 titles.

After featuring for his nation at all the relevant age-grades, Ben Arfa was handed the first of his 15 international caps for France in 2007 also.

Despite the forward’s reputation rising, his ability to cause disharmony also started to showcase itself.

Rumblings of a disagreement with Karim Benzema started suggestions of a possible exit from the Stade de Gerland; a training ground bust-up with Sébastien Squillaci played a key part in facilitating his move to Marseille.

Sparks of brilliance lit up the Stade Vélodrome as they had at Lyon, but trouble was never too far away either.

Ben Arfa fell out with Djibril Cissé in training and his relationship with manager Didier Deschamps was also sullied through repeated spats – something he may now regret.

With his time on the south coast appearing at an end due to his disagreements with the head coach, a loan move to Newcastle that was made permanent followed.

His four years on Tyneside were certainly not uneventful.

Ben Arfa suffered a sickening leg break in his early days of English football but showed character and commitment to return to fitness and his best form.

Hatem Ben ArfaPeriods where the winger was almost unplayable led to a host of remarkable wondergoals that delighted the St James’ Park faithful.

However, Alan Pardew became tired of the Frenchman’s languid demeanour and unwillingness to work back towards his own goal, with the inevitable butting of heads happening.

Ben Arfa was ostracised and labelled ‘impossible to manage’, with an unsuccessful loan stint at Hull City followed by Newcastle releasing him.

The move to Nice has reinvigorated the gifted technician; being the main man at the Allianz Riviera certainly has boosted his confidence once more and unshackled him on the pitch.

Ben Arfa’s superb form even resulted in a return to the France national squad after a three-year hiatus, with the star stepping out against Germany and England last November.

However, he has been omitted for upcoming international friendlies against Netherlands and Russia, in an insight into his chances of playing at Euro 2016.

Deschamps knows better than most the gift and curse that Ben Arfa can represent from their mutual time at Marseille and must be carefully mulling over whether to include the troubled genius in his final competition contingent.

A match-winner that would comprise an enviable Plan B if a game was not going France’s way, Ben Arfa could also represent the rotten apple that soiled the collective given his personality.

The Euro 2016 hosts have no shortage of talent but team spirit has been Les Bleus’ historic problem over recent competitions.

With this in mind, Deschamps has a risky decision to make if Ben Arfa is to go full circle and feature on home soil this summer – but the last six months have shown that this troubled genius still can deliver fireworks when in the mood.

By
I am a freelance football journalist from Northern Ireland living in Broome in Western Australia. I have worked for top media outlets such as FourFourTwo, goal.com, Soccerlens, Football Fancast and Here is the City. I am a lifelong and long-suffering Tottenham fan. Follow me on Twitter at @90MinsOnline
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