In a revealing interview with France football, Hatem Ben Arfa vented his frustration at how his Newcastle United career ended last season.
After rediscovering his mercurial form in Ligue 1 with OGC Nice this season, the 28-year-old is relieved to have put his Premier League nightmare behind him.
Upon impressing during a brief loan spell from Marseille during the 2010/11 campaign, Ben Arfa permanently signed for the Toon the following summer. Two seasons in and the Frenchman was proving a fan favourite with his jaw-dropping dribbling and long shots.
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The Frenchman’s success at Newcastle was to a point that in the 2011/12 term, the Magpies narrowly missed out on a Champions League place and the winger himself was nominated for a FIFA Puskas award for a miraculous solo goal against Blackburn.
However, as Ben Arfa rolled into his third season, the wheels began to fall off. Amidst rumours of rapid weight gain and a reluctance to play, the Frenchman became confined to the bench and wanted out.
Hull City came calling a year later and sealed his services on loan, yet his rotten form was swift to transfer to the KC Stadium. The France international only made nine appearances, failed to score a single goal and was released from his contract in January.
With UEFA rules banning Ben Arfa from playing for three clubs in a single season, Nice’s agreed transfer had to wait until the summer. It wasn’t until June 9 that the winger could finally escape his ordeal at Newcastle.
Since returning to France, the tricky midfielder has been in superb form, to the extent where he has earned a place back in the French squad for the first time since 2011. After all, for a winger to possess seven goals in just 13 appearances this season says it all.
France football spoke to the player this week as Ben Arfa looked back on his frustrations across the English channel.
According to the Express, he said: "It was a very, very difficult period. The worst of my career. It was as if my hell began at Newcastle.
"There, on the first day back in August 2014, I was placed directly with the reserves. A terrible humiliation. Weeks passed and I was always with these young 16 and 17-year-olds on land away from those pros.
"I did not understand. They gave me a nightmare. It was full of little cheap shots. And when I believed in me [getting out] by signing for Nice, they were forbidden to hire me [until July].
"I had the feeling of being locked in a dark room without a door, or in an endless tunnel.
"I saw hell and especially no solution to my problems. At that time, I was wrong, I did not see any light. I was a prisoner.
"I was slapping myself every day to not let go.
"I tried to convince myself that the light was coming back, I was going to find the right path.
"By signing this summer with Nice, I really felt out of hell. In fact, that's it, I come back from hell."
There is no denying the Frenchman’s bitterness towards his treatment at Newcastle and in hindsight, the Magpies let go one of the most gifted players to grace St. James' Park in recent years.
A loose cannon maybe, but Hatem Ben Arfa is a raw talent that had so much more to offer in the Premier League. Oh, how Newcastle might come to rue not treating him better.
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