Hatem Ben Arfa is one of the most Lionel Messi-like footballers that we’ve seen in English football in the 21st century.
Now, that might seem dramatic, but rest assured that we’re not making the comparison under any illusion that Ben Arfa was picking up Ballon d’Or nominations and scoring over 30 goals per season.
No, rather, we’re making the point that the way in which Ben Arfa behaved with the ball at his feet, particularly when it came to his remarkable dribbling, almost certainly had shades of Messi about it.
The brilliance of Ben Arfa
The gargantuan difference is obviously that Messi could channel that towards goals and assists with infinitely greater efficiency, but rest assured that Ben Arfa still made for blockbuster viewing.
You always knew that the French wizard would only go so many games in the black and white stripes of Newcastle United without producing something straight out of the spectacular.
Whether that came in the form of lashing home a 40-yard screamer or leaving five defenders on the turf with his footwork, Ben Arfa is undoubtedly one of the those ‘the streets will never forget’ players.
Amazing memories at Newcastle
Ok, so that’s all well and good, but it’s actually been the best part of seven years since Ben Arfa played in English football and he’s currently a free agent upon the expiration of his Bordeaux deal.
Well, yes, but we thought that FA Cup third round weekend was the perfect excuse to look back on one of the most jaw-dropping moments that Ben Arfa delivered at the peak of his powers.
Sound good? Of course it does, because we’re talking about a goal that was so remarkable that it endures as one of only two strikes in FA Cup history to earn a nomination for FIFA’s Puskas Award.
And spoiler alert: it’s better than Nemanja Matic’s 2017 screamer for Chelsea that also earned a nod for the sport’s premier ‘goal of the year’ prize.
Ben Arfa’s epic goal vs Blackburn
In fact, Ben Arfa has arguably never channeled Messi to a greater extent than when he produced a truly unbelievable solo goal during the 2-1 win at home to Blackburn Rovers in the 2011/12 season.
With at least four opposition players directly falling victim to his footwork and many others watching on in a state of shock, Ben Arfa’s masterpiece really is footballing art, so be sure to check it out:
Try telling me that’s not one of the best solo goals that you’ve ever seen. Try me.
Nominated for Puskas Award
While it might not have the directness and kinetics of his Bolton Wanderers stunner from the same season, it’s the fact that the dribbling lasts so, so long that gives it the edge from where we’re stood.
By the time that the Newcastle cult hero is trying to wiggle his way free in the penalty area before his finish into the roof of the net, it really did feel like Ben Arfa was toying with the Blackburn defence.
Chelsea 2-0 Tottenham Match Reaction (Football Terrace)
Sadly, it wasn’t quite enough for Ben Arfa to bag the Puskas Award with Miroslav Stoch taking the prize for his Fenerbahçe screamer, while Radamel Falcao and Neymar rounded off the podium.
Nevertheless, we’ll happily die on the hill that Ben Arfa’s oft-forgotten Blackburn special is one of the FA Cup’s greatest ever goals, even if it didn’t quite get FIFA head over heels.