Hatem Ben Arfa (born 7 March 1987) is a French international footballer who plays for English club Newcastle United in the Premier League. He plays as a winger and an attacking midfielder. Ben Arfa has been described as “one of the best-rated talents in France”, but has been criticised by the media and players alike for lacking discipline.Ben Arfa started his career throughout various clubs in the Île-de-France region, having trained at AC Boulogne-Billancourt and Versailles. In 1999, he was selected to attend the Clairefontaine academy.
Ben Arfa spent three years at the academy and, upon leaving, signed with Lyon, where he won four Ligue 1 titles. In his early career at Lyon, he played as a centre forward, but moved into a winger role during the 2007–08 season. In the summer of 2008, Ben Arfa signed with rivals Marseille for €11 million through a move which required the intervention of the Ligue de Football Professionnel. With Marseille, he won the 2009–10 league title, his fifth overall, as well as the Coupe de la Ligue in 2010. After two years at Marseille, Ben Arfa joined English club Newcastle United on loan for the 2010–11 season; the deal was made permanent later in the season. Ben Arfa is a former French youth international having played at all levels. At under-17 level, he was a part of the team that won the 2004 UEFA European Under-17 Football Championship. Ben Arfa was called up to the senior team for the first time in October 2007 for a UEFA Euro 2008 qualifying match against the Faroe Islands.
Hatem was born into a family with a history of elite footballers, being the son of former Tunisian international footballer Kamel Ben Arfa. Hatem began his career at ASV Châtenay-Malabry. After two years at the club, he moved a few miles north to Montrouge CF 92. In 1998, Ben Arfa joined sporting club AC Boulogne-Billancourt. The following year, he was selected to attend the Clairefontaine academy. While at Clairefontaine, he was a part of A la Clairefontaine, a documentary series which chronicled the lives of some of France’s top young footballers during their time at the academy. During the series, an episode showed Ben Arfa getting into an argument with Abou Diaby. While training at Clairefontaine during the weekdays, he played for FC Versailles on the weekends.
At 15 and already labeled a prodigy, Ben Arfa joined Lyon, a club which had just won its first ever Ligue 1 championship. In August 2004, after spending two years in the youth divisions of the Lyon academy, he signed his first professional contract agreeing to a three-year deal, despite late interest from English club Chelsea and Dutch outfit Ajax. He was, along with fellow youth player Karim Benzema, promoted to the senior squad and assigned the number 34 shirt. Ben Arfa made his professional debut on the opening match day of the 2004–05 season against Nice coming on as a substitute in the 68th minute. Lyon won the match 1–0 following a goal from Giovane Elber, a few minutes after Ben Arfa came on. After making a few substitute appearances, he made his first start on 11 September 2004 in a 2–1 victory over Rennes playing 56 minutes.
Ben Arfa scored his first professional goal two months later on 10 November in a Coupe de la Ligue match against Lille, converting from the penalty spot in extra time to give Lyon a 2–1 lead, though Lille scored two late goals, beating Lyon 3–2. He made his UEFA Champions League debut in a group stage match against Manchester United coming on as a substitute for Sidney Govou.The following season, Ben Arfa switched to the first team number 18 shirt, but his substitute-to-start ratio was still high as seven of his 12 appearances were as a substitute. He made his first Champions League start in a 2–1 victory over Norwegian club Rosenborg, providing the assist on the game-winning goal scored by the Brazilian Fred in the last minutes of the match. Ben Arfa scored his first league goal during the 2006–07 season against Sedan just before half-time. The goal proved to be the winner as Lyon won the match 1–0.
After wingers Florent Malouda and Sylvain Wiltord left the club, incoming manager Alain Perrin preferred the more modern 4–3–3 formation and opted to move Ben Arfa to the left-wing role for the 2007–08 season. Ben Arfa quickly adapted to the position and scored his first goal in a 5–1 demolition of Metz on 15 September, though his performance was overshadowed by a Karim Benzema hat trick. Arguably his best performances in a Lyon shirt came in a period of 12 days, during which he played a league match on 28 October against Paris Saint-Germain and a Champions League game against German club VfB Stuttgart on 7 November. He scored two goals in each match with both results being in favor of Lyon. Following the season, he was named the National Union of Professional Footballers (UNFP) Young Player of the Year.Despite rumors of a rift between himself and Benzema, Ben Arfa signed a contract extension with Lyon in March 2008 until 2010. However, his career at Lyon reached an impasse after he got into a training session scuffle with veteran Sébastien Squillaci.