PARIS (AP) Hatem Ben Arfa‘s dream move to French champion Paris Saint-Germain is falling flat, and coach Unai Emery remains evasive as to why he keeps leaving him out of his squad.
Ben Arfa was not included for Tuesday’s home match against Dijon, the third straight game he has been axed – even though it would appear to be just the right sort of match to boost Ben Arfa’s confidence given that Dijon is struggling in 16th place.
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“It’s a purely sporting decision,” Emery said tersely at a pre-match news conference on Monday. “There are players who are ready and those who are not.”
After scoring 17 league goals for Nice last season, many of them spectacular individual efforts featuring his trademark quick feet and mazy dribbling skills, the 29-year-old winger joined PSG on a two-year-deal.
His outstanding season with Nice came after a difficult end to his career with English side Newcastle, which farmed him out on loan to Hull, a side then struggling in the Premier League.
Therefore, the move to PSG was a personal triumph for Ben Arfa, one of the most gifted players of his generation and a teen sensation with former French champion Lyon.
Joining PSG was also meant to be the stepping stone back to the France side. Ben Arfa narrowly missed out on a place in Didier Deschamps’ European Championship squad earlier this year, having made the larger provisional squad.
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But the PSG move has proved problematic so far.
Ben Arfa has started only two league games and been taken off in both midway through the second half.
Pressed further on why Ben Arfa was again left out, the Spanish coach – who won three straight Europa League titles with Sevilla – again played down the issue.
“He’s a player like the others,” Emery said. “Those who are in the squad are those best prepared to play tomorrow.”
However, in the days leading up to last week’s Champions League game against Arsenal, Emery criticized Ben Arfa’s work-rate and said he needed to do much more.
For all of his talent, and Barcelona was also keen to sign him this season as a squad player, Ben Arfa continues to puzzle coaches.