One of the biggest stories on Deadline Day didn’t involve a player moving club, but a player being stopped from playing for a club. Former Newcastle United midfielder Hatem Ben Arfa signed for Ligue 1 club Nice after being released from his contract in the North-East, but a cameo performance for NUFC’s Under-21 side seems to have put the future of his career in jeopardy, leaving the player even threatening to retire.
FIFA have deemed that that performance, plus playing for Hull City, means he can’t play for OGC Nice in Ligue 1. The French league sought confirmation from the governing body and on Monday they were given their response. Even though the English FA did not class the Under-21 game as an official match, FIFA saw the situation differently and the LFP released a statement confirming their decision, confirmed by the BBC.
"In application of the decision, the LFP has no other choice but to ban Hatem Ben Arfa from playing official matches with Nice until the end of the season," a statement said.
FIFA regulations state that "players may be registered with a maximum of three clubs during one season. During this period, the player is only eligible to play official matches for two clubs".
Ben Arfa’s agent, Jean-Jacques Bertrand told Infosport Plus TV in France, “He can't really see himself not playing for 7 months. It's completely uncontemplatable. Or he stops football.”
This is the sensational headline being spread around the news reports, but Infosport did add a follow-up question, asking if the player was really thinking of quitting. Bertrand was less convinced.
“It's one option. Players can be paranoid, but he feels people don't want to see him. In England it didn't go well. He's done nothing wrong and one doesn't want him to play. At some point the question needs to be asked.”
Another option for Ben Arfa, if he genuinely wants to continue his career without missing seven months, would be to move further afield.
Rule 5.3 of the FIFA rules relevant to the registration of players reveals another avenue for Ben Arfa.
"As an exception to this rule, a player moving between two clubs belonging to associations with overlapping seasons (i.e. start of the season in summer/autumn as opposed to winter/spring_ may be eligible to play in official matches for a third club during the relevant season, provided he has fully complied with his contractual obligations towards his previous clubs."
This means that when, as expected today, Ben Arfa’s contract with Nice is cancelled, he would be able to move to MLS, A-League in Australian, or any club in Asia or North or South America.
Now is the time for Ben Arfa to show that he is worth the hassle and effort. It is disappointing that he can’t play for Nice in Ligue 1, but if he genuinely wants to play, there are places he can continue his career.
Attitude problems have always plagued his progression. Moving from Lyon to Marseille and then to Newcastle United were all down to the player's attitude. He now has the chance to show he is not the spoiled kid that he is made out to be. Ben Arfa is now 27 years old - one season in a developing league like MLS could be exactly what he needs.
Then, if he shows he still has the ability to command attention and interest, he could make a glorious return to Europe. Possibly earning another chance to play in the Premier League. It may not be the path he was hoping to path, but the ball is certainly still in Ben Arfa’s control.