Labelled "a football genius" by Bordeaux coach Jean-Louis Gasset, the extravagantly gifted Hatem Ben Arfa could make his debut for his new club against Olympique de Marseille this weekend.
Speaking in late September, when the possibility of the French international attacker joining Les Girondins was put to him, Gasset commented: "I'm not going to believe in Father Christmas at my age. Hatem Ben Arfa is a creator, a football genius. If it's possible… but frankly I don't know."
Ben Arfa has dazzled and frustrated throughout his career, which began in Ligue 1 Uber Eats back in August 2004 at Olympique Lyonnais. Now 33, the talent is still there and Bordeaux's fans will be hoping the mercurial player lives up to Gasset's billing.
READY TO GO?
Having barely played in 2019-2020, managing just a handful of matches for Spanish club Real Valladolid, Ben Arfa will have to prove to Gasset - who worked with the player at international level as assistant to France boss Laurent Blanc from 2010 to 2012 - that he's got the legs to start games.
"Very good, super good," said Ben Arfa when asked about his physical level in his presentation press conference.
THE PLEASURE PRINCIPLE
Ben Arfa has always performed at his best when enjoying himself on the field. He said: "I want to win and enjoy myself. By enjoying yourself, you become more competitive and automatically you perform better. That will not change. I'll try to repay the confidence that's been shown to me. The more confidence people have in you, the more responsibilities you have the more desire you have to repay that faith."
Likely to be given a huge amount of attacking freedom at Bordeaux, Ben Arfa will be hoping to rediscover the potency that saw him score 17 goals in 34 Ligue 1 Uber Eats appearances in 2015-2016.
Despite his career ups and downs, Ben Arfa has won plenty of trophies: four times a Ligue 1 Uber Eats champion with Olympique Lyonnais, he also won the league with Olympique de Marseille in 2010 and was on Paris Saint-Germain's books when they were crowned champions in 2018. His most recent trophy was the Coupe de France with Stade Rennais in 2019.
Bordeaux are not tipped for trophies but Ben Arfa said: "I want us to do something collectively, to go as high as possible and to show ambition."
Gasset, 66, was lured back to football by Les Girondins and working with the former Saint-Etienne boss was a major factor in Ben Arfa's decision to join. He said: "I like his philosophy as a man and as a coach. I like the way he gets his teams to play. He likes attacking football, creative football and outnumbering the opponents. I agree with him on this point. As a man, I knew him from France and I felt good energy. He's a coach with a lot of values."
N.B: Photos courtesy of www.girondins.com