Hatem Ben Arfa has come a long way since his hit-and-miss days at Newcastle United. After having his contract terminated by the Premier League club halfway through last season, he was forced to suck up his pride and return to France with the then unspectacular OFC Nice.
Yet since his debut this season, the Frenchman has arguably been Ligue 1’s best player and his reward is a place back in the national squad for friendlies against Germany and England.
The rejuvenated winger was been key to a run of form which saw his side score 17 goals in four matches, including a 6-1 thrashing of Bordeaux.
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With seven goals in 10 league games this season, Ben Arfa is currently level with the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani. But it’s not just about the number of goals he scores, but the way he scores them.
His mercurial brand of football has turned heads and gotten many off their seat, with stellar solo goals against Caen and Rennes this season. One of those people appears to be France manager Didier Deschamps.
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It’s been three years since Ben Arfa last sported the famous blue of France, as his country lost to Sweden, subsequently knocking them out of the European Championships back in 2012.
With the next Euro’s just around the corner - this time on home soil - the Frenchman may once again play a part in a major tournament for his country.
As one of the most in-form players in Europe, Ben Arfa’s exploits haven’t gone unnoticed, and Deschamps is pleased to welcome the winger back to international set-up:
"Hatem has had a very good start to the championship. It is good to bring him back to the French squad," he said at his press conference after announcing the squad.
"He has the ability to make a difference in one move."
Having previously managed the winger at Marseille, he will know all about his temperament. Despite seeming far more settled back in his native France, there’s every chance the pair could clash, even if they've patched things up.
"Hatem I have no problems,” he added. “With him, on the big point we disagreed on I was wrong.”
Deschamps has made it known in the past he holds no reservations dropping star players if their attitude does not match his expectations. In the interest of keeping squad morale high, he dropped Samir Nasri ahead of the 2014 World Cup, fearing the Manchester City star would disrupt that.
But his change in stance is understandable. With a European Championships in France in a little over eight months, the already weighty pressure of being the hosts will reach almost unbearable levels. They need the best players available to them. And at the moment, Ben Arfa is one of those players.
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