Is this a sign of doubt over Ben Arfa's future at Newcastle?

St James Park

Newcastle United have suggested the French winger's future may lie away from the club after revealing the season's new squad numbers.

Hatem Ben Arfa has been stripped of his number 10 squad number and instead has been given a very insignificant number 26.

New boy Siem de Jong has taken the number in his place, which seems to confirm two things; one, that Newcastle intend on their new attacking midfielder being a key man this season, and two that Ben Arfa is pretty much surplus to requirements at St James' Park.

The talismanic winger's future has been in doubt since July when it was reported that he had been fined for returning to training overweight, a similar problem to the one he suffered in pre-season last year.

Newcastle boss Alan Pardew has apparently slammed the midfielder for his lack of professionalism, and has told the player he will spend the last remaining year of his contract in the reserves unless someone comes in for him. A move which could cost Magpies Mike Ashley £7 million.

It has been rumoured that Ben Arfa could be used as a makeweight in the deal to bring 23-year-old Lyon forward Alexandre Lacazette to Tyneside. But that deal is someway off, and it's quite rare that player swap deals ever materialise.

It will be a huge fall from grace for the man who said he still has dreams on one day winning the Ballon d'or last season. On his day he can be as good as any winger in the Premier League, unfortunately his days don't come round too often anymore.

Average displays and poor levels of effort have overshadowed some of the incredible goals and performances he has shown in recent seasons.

Having signed de Jong, Remy Cabella and Emmanuel Riviere, it's unlikely that Toon Army supporters will be too disappointed to see the man, who had the potential to be a Newcastle superstar, never play for the club again. 

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