For a player who’s been at Newcastle United for a little over three-and-half-years, Hatem Ben Arfa has had more comebacks than Rocky Balboa.
His latest setback—a groin injury that sidelined the Frenchman for over a month—has reportedly cleared up, and he's in line to make his return this weekend.
Unlike past reappearances, however, there is an air of finality surrounding the enigmatic wide man this time around, and many feel his spell on Tyneside could be coming to and end.
Manager Alan Pardew made Ben Arfa his first signing at St. James’ Park in early 2011, landing the France international from Marseille after an initial loan spell.
But the former Lyon man has spent as much time on the treatment table as he has hitting the headlines, and Magpies’ fans soon acknowledged his ability to excite and infuriate in equal measure.
On his day, Ben Arfa remains one of the most lethal players in the Premier League.
Likewise, long-range efforts against the likes of Everton and Aston Villa highlighted accuracy and vision, but consistency remains his most significant adversary.
Few players have split opinion among the Toon’s following like Ben Arfa, and for every supporter who sings his name there is another close by bemoaning his shortcomings.
His harshest detractors point to a perceived lack of awareness when it comes to his teammates, as well as an inclination to delay the final ball until the moment is gone.
A reputation for petulance also seems to follow him around, and unfortunately for the Clairefontaine product, Pardew himself is seemingly running out of patience.
Another appeared in The Journal, courtesy of Neil Cameron, who suggested the can-do attitude of fellow Frenchmen Yoan Gouffran and Moussa Sissoko had kept him out of the team.
By the time this summer comes around, Ben Arfa will have just one year remaining on his current contract, and in terms of winning favour with his manager once more, it really is a case of now or never.
United will not want to lose him for nothing, and if he fails to take his final chance in a black-and-white shirt in the remaining nine games this season, his time by the Tyne could be up.
Over to you, Hatem.