Hatem Ben Arfa

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Ben Arfa suing for compensation over unhappy spell at PSG

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PARIS (AP) French midfielder Hatem Ben Arfa is seeking up to $9.1 million in compensation from Paris Saint-Germain for not playing him during the last 15 months of his largely unhappy spell with the club.

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The player’s lawyer, Jean-Jacques Bertrand, said in an Associated Press interview on Monday that the suit was filed on Friday with a Paris labor tribunal.

Bertrand said Ben Arfa’s contract at PSG was heavily weighted with performances bonuses, so his earnings took a hit from the club’s decision not to play him. The suit also argues that PSG’s treatment of Ben Arfa amounted to workplace harassment.

The lawyer alleges the club’s aim was “to make him crack,” and PSG “did everything to push him to leave.”

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In response, PSG expressed confidence that it will be vindicated and said it regrets the “stubbornness” of Ben Arfa and his attorney.

Ben Arfa joined PSG in 2016. But after scoring twice in a French Cup quarterfinal in April 2017, he never played for the PSG first team again to the end of his contract in June 2018, an exile of nearly 70 matches.

Report: Remi Garde would welcome Hatem Ben Arfa to MLS

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Hatem Ben Arfa has authored some of the finest goals in European football, but has found himself out of favor at Paris Saint-Germain.

Unable to get any playing time, he’s been linked with a number of different spots.

Several of them come in Major League Soccer, and one of its current managers has some experience with Ben Arfa dating back to shared time at Lyon.

[ RECAPS: Juve-Real | Sevilla-Bayern ]

Montreal Impact boss Remi Garde was quizzed on the mercurial talent who’s now washed out of several spots including Newcastle United, and indicated his happiness at the idea of Ben Arfa joining him in Quebec.

Garde says the pair “know each other well” and that “if Hatem wants to come to MLS, he’d be welcome here.”

Whether or not he washes out of the league long-term almost feels irrelevant short-term, at least to neutrals, because he’d provide electricity from the jump. There are few players in the world like HBA and at 31, he could still bring plenty of fire to the field.

Ben Arfa’s move to PSG falling flat as he is again left out

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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.

Similar reproaches were made by Alan Pardew, his former coach at Newcastle, and by Hull coach Steve Bruce.

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.

Benzema says race, not sex-tape scandal, reason for his EURO 2016 exclusion

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PARIS (AP) Karim Benzema has accused Didier Deschamps of giving in to pressure from racists when the France coach decided not to include him in the squad for the European Championship.

[ MORE: All the latest EURO 2016 news ]

In an interview with Spanish sports newspaper Marca published Wednesday, Benzema said he does not believe that Deschamps is a racist, but that he “bowed to the pressure of a racist part of France.”

Deschamps has been a long-time supporter of Benzema, who has been suspended from the national team because of his involvement in an extortion scam over a sex tape involving France teammate Mathieu Valbuena.

“I would have liked to play for my country, but unfortunately that’s impossible,” said Benzema, who is of Algerian descent. “Missing the 2010 World Cup in South Africa was a setback, but the European Championship at home is even harder. This is one of the biggest disappointments I have had, without a doubt.”

[ MORE: Deschamps names star-filled squad for EURO 2016 ]

This latest off-the-field controversy is unlikely to improve Benzema’s already tarnished image in his own country. France’s junior minister for sports, Thierry Braillard, said on Twitter that Benzema’s statement is “unjustified and unacceptable. Total support to FFF (French football federation) and Didier Deschamps.”

Benzema’s comments echoed those of former France international Eric Cantona, who said last week that Deschamps might have left out Benzema and Nice winger Hatem Ben Arfa on racial grounds.

Ben Arfa – whose father is a former Tunisia international – scored 17 goals in 33 French league matches this season but was not selected in Deschamps’ group of players for the tournament starting in France on June 10.

Deschamps had many offensive options at his disposal and picked six attacking players, including Antoine Griezmann, Dimitri Payet, Anthony Martial, Kingsley Coman, Olivier Giroud and Andre-Pierre Gignac.

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“Benzema is a great player. Ben Arfa is a great player,” Cantona told the Guardian newspaper. “But Deschamps, he has a really French name. Maybe he is the only one in France to have a truly French name. Nobody in his family mixed with anybody, you know. Like the Mormons in America. So I’m not surprised he used the situation of Benzema not to take him. And Ben Arfa is maybe the best player in France today. But they have some origins. I am allowed to think about that.”

Deschamps’ lawyer said he will sue Cantona for his comments.

Benzema, who won the Champions League with Real Madrid last week, said the political context in France, where the far right has been gaining political support over the past five years, played against him.

France’s far right, anti-immigrant National Front is increasingly popular under leader Marine Le Pen, who has brought it toward the political mainstream – and who is expected to make it into the presidential election runoff next year. The party was the top vote-getter in regional and European elections last year, but maneuvering by traditional parties kept it from winning any governorships, and may keep Le Pen from the presidency.

In addition to its core anti-immigration message, the party rails against what it calls the “Islamization” of France and wants France out of the euro and the European Union – though one of its major pulpits is the European Parliament, where it’s part of a far right bloc.

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“You have to know that in France the extremist party reached the second round in the last two elections,” Benzema said.

Earlier this year, French football federation president Noel Le Graet spoke of his shock at the amount of racist hate mail he received telling him not to select Benzema.

Speaking to reporters from Austria, where the France squad is preparing for Euro 2016, Le Graet insisted Benzema has not been suspended for life.

“We’ll do without him during Euro 2016, then we’ll see,” Le Graet said. “I like him and I did not change my mind. He got a bit carried away, I’d rather he were a bit more friendly, but I won’t make further comment on the issue.”

Benzema, who has 27 goals in 81 international matches, also missed the 2010 World Cup. Former France coach Raymond Domenech left him out of his squad in the wake of another scandal, when Benzema and teammate Franck Ribery were handed preliminary charges for soliciting an underage prostitute. Both were acquitted.

“France is going to realize that it has been unfair to me,” Benzema said.

Barcelona reportedly seeking out Nice winger Hatem Ben Afra

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Lost in the 2015-16 campaign has been Nice attacker Hatem Ben Afra.

[ MORE: Leicester can provide more magic at home vs. Everton ]

While Paris Saint-Germain has stolen the spotlight in France for much of this season, the former Newcastle midfielder has been nothing short of special for Les Aiglons.

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That has left La Liga giant Barcelona contacting the 29-year old Frenchman over his services, according to Nice president Jean Pierre Rivere.

Rivere told France 3 he wouldn’t mind Ben Afra exiting the club:

“I would be very happy for him and for Nice if this move comes off,” Rivère said. “You do not reject Barcelona, but it is up to him to decide. If I was a player and Barcelona was offered to me I would not ask questions, I would go! But it is not yet done according to what I am told.”

In 32 appearances this season for Nice, Ben Afra has notched 17 goals and added five assists. He ranks third in goals, only behind PSG’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Alexandre Lacazette of Lyon.

Barcelona could very well be the frontrunners to acquire the talented attacker, but several European sides have also expressed interest in Ben Afra. Premier League clubs Chelsea and Liverpool, as well as AC Milan have also been named as potential suitors.

[ MORE: What do other PL teams have to say about Leicester? ]

Ben Afra’s age may be a bit of a concern for the Blaugrana though, in addition to the fact that this current season is the only time in his career that he has tallied double-digit goals. The Lyon academy product could provide solid depth to Barcelona’s attack should a deal get finalized.

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