Hatem Ben Arfa’s not the messiah – but neither is he a very naughty boy

Hatem Ben Arfa
Hatem Ben Arfa

Hatem Ben Arfa is not the messiah – but neither is he a very naughty boy.

That’s the message from Nice president Jean-Piere Riviere after the French club completed the signing of the mercurial forward.

Ben Arfa’s career was put in limbo earlier this season when he was unable to sign for a new club despite being released by Newcastle United.

The 28-year-old famously fell out with Magpies manager Alan Pardew last year over his attitude and workrate, and was shipped out on loan to Hull City in September.

However, the loan spell was cut short after Tigers boss Steve Bruce accused him of going AWOL.

The remaining six months on his Newcastle contract was then terminated by mutual consent in January and Ben Arfa was poised to join Nice for the rest of the season.

But because he had represented Hull in the Premier League and the Magpies in the Under-21 Premier League, FIFA regulations meant he was forbidden from being registered for any other club before the end of the campaign.

However, Nice have remained patient and completed his signing yesterday, although Riviere admitted it was a ‘gamble’ signing the controversial winger.

However, he has backed Ben Arfa to knuckle down and be a hit in Ligue 1.

“It’s a gamble for us and for him,” Rivere told French media.

“We often talked about his past, but I have met a honest guy with character.

“We do not expect him to be a messiah but a player who will integrate into our collective.

“After a period without play, it will be complicated for him.

“But he has so much talent, and we will do everything in order that he can express himself with us.”

Ben Arfa made 55 starts for Newcastle after signing from Marseille in 2010, first on loan and then in a permanent deal worth £5.5m.

He also appeared 31 times as a substitute, scoring 14 goals.

However, he fell out with Pardew towards the end of the 2013/14 season and was banished to train with the kids last summer.

He has 13 caps for France, but hasn’t played for the national side since Euro 2012.