999 Hatem Ben Arfa

Biography

When Hull City “won the transfer window” in August 2014 it was the signing of exciting French wideman Hatem Ben Arfa, loaned from Newcastle United, that embodied that victory most strikingly.  What a baseless victory it turned out to be, with Ben Arfa’s poor performances being the totemic sign of the club’s failure to attract the necessary talent to compete in the Premier League.  A brife debut from the bench against West Ham United was followed by a promising game in the League Cup against West Bromwich Albion, which gave City fans hope. But by Ben Arfa’s last appearance at Manchester United in late November his form had declined so much that when he was subbed off by Steve Bruce with half an hour gone, statistics showed that the Frenchman had covered less ground that City keeper Allan McGregor.  This stat led to the club terminating his season long loan after just 75 days.

Born in Clamart, a suburb of Paris, Hatem Ben Arfa was raised in a footballing family, his father having been a Tunisian international.  He played for a number of junior teams and came through the Clairefontaine national excellence programme before arriving at Lyon at the age of 15 and breaking into the first team by the time he was 17 with a senior debut in August 2004 against OGC Nice. He scored his first senior goal two months later against Lille in the Coupe de France, ending his first senior season with 14 appearances and Ligue 1 title winning medal. For the next two seasons Ben Arfa was on the fringes of the first team at Lyon as they won Ligue 1 two more times – he also played in both Trophee des Champions season openers that Lyon won, defeating Auxerre in July 2005 and Paris St Germain a year later. In the 2007/08 season Hatem broke fully into the first team picture, missing only a handful of games and scoring eight goals as Lyon lifted the League title for the fourth consecutive season and won a third consecutive Trophee des Champions against Sochaux. By the 2008 close season Ben Arfa had scored 12 goals in 92 appearances across four league title winning seasons, but training ground unrest meant he was on the lookout for a new club.

In July 2008 Ligue 1 rivals Marseille paid 12 million euros for Ben Arfa’s signature, here his pace and creativity continued to attract the attention of many top clubs from Spain, England and France as he helped the club lift the 2009/10 Ligue 1 title – Ben Arfa’s fifth winners’ medal in the first six seasons of his career. Despite this fine form Marseille let Ben Arfa leave in August 2010 after 15 goals in 91 appearances when the player downed tools in response to an initial refusal to let him join Newcastle United.

At the end of August 2010 Ben Arfa did indeed join English Premier League side Newcastle United, initially on loan then permanently from January 2011. He joined a Newcastle team renowned for an attacking style and fitted in well at St James’ Park, although his debut appearance in September 2010 against Blackpool and debut goal a week later against Everton were quickly followed by a broken leg suffered in October 2010 against Manchester City that kept him out of football for 11 months. When Hatem returned to the Magpies first team in September 2011 he quickly became a fans’ favourite and by the end of the 2013/14 season he had scored 14 goals in 86 appearances for the club across four seasons. By now however he had fallen out of favour due to problems with his form and attitude and was allowed to join Hull City on loan at the start of the 2014/15 season.

Having played for both Newcastle’s U21 Premier League side and Hull City between August and November 2014, Ben Arfa was prevented by UEFA rules from playing for another senior club for the remainder of the 2014/15 season.  He was released by Newcastle in January 2015 and took a career break to travel the world and find fitness. The benefits of this break were such that when he returned to France and signed for Nice in July 2015 he delivered the best form of his career, scoring 18 goals in 37 appearances during the 2015/16 season including his only career hattrick in April 2016 against Stade Rennais. In July 2016 he signed for French super club Paris St Germain but after a good start to the 2016/17 season his form again stalled and he ended the season with four goals (all in Cup competitions) in 32 appearances. Ben Arfa was not used at all by PSG during the 2017/18 season and he left when his contract expired in the 2018 close season.

In September 2018 Hatem joined Stade Rennais on a free transfer, he again found form and helped Rennes reach the 2019 Coupe de France final where Ben Arfa’s side defeated his former club Paris St Germain on penalties – sweet revenge! He left Rennes in the 2019 close season having scored 9 goals in 41 appearances and was without a club for several months until he signed a short term deal with Real Valladolid in January 2020, where he made just 5 La Liga appearances. In October 2020 he returned to France once again and signed for Bordeaux, where he scored twice in 25 appearances during the 2020/21 season. He joined LOSC Liile in January 2022 and spent the second half of the season with the Northern French side, making nine appearances. His playing days came to an end in April 2022 after a heated exchange with Lille manager Jocelyn Gourvennec ended in Ben Arfa being suspended.

Ben Arfa was identified by the French international setup thanks to spending his teenage years at Clairefontaine. He debuted for the France Under-16 team in 2003 and went on to score seven goals in 10 appearances at that level. In May 2004 Hatem starred as France won the European Under-17 Championship finals, overall he scored ten goals in 15 appearances for the France Under-17 side. By October 2005 he was playing for the Under-18s (4 appearances) and the Under-19s (one goal in six appearances) and he also played four times for the Under-21 side during 2007. In October 2007 Ben Arfa was given his senior international debut for France, scoring in a European Championships qualifier against Faroe Islands. He drifted out of the French senior team at the end of 2008 and after scoring in an August 2010 friendly against Norway he had to wait until May 2012 to get back as a regular starter, playing in two matches during the Euro 2012 finals in Poland and Ukraine. The last of his 15 international caps (which yielded two goals) came against England in November 2015.

Details

NationalityFrance
Date/Place of Birth7 March 1987, Clamart (France)
Hull City First Game: 15 September 2014, West Ham United H (Premier League), 27 years, 192 days old
Hull City Final Game: 29 November 2014, Manchester United A (Premier League), 27 years, 267 days old

Clubs

Lyon (2004-2008), Marseille (2008-2011), Newcastle United (2010, loan), Newcastle United (2011-2015), Hull City (2014, loan), Nice (2015-2016), Paris St Germain (2016-2018), Rennes (2018-2019), Real Valladolid (2020), Bordeaux (2020-2021), Lille (2022)

Hull City Record

Career: 9 apps, 0 goals

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2014/155 (3)01 (0)0

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