“It could be THE football mess of the 21st century”, laments the former agent of Ben Arfa

Hatem Ben Arfa’s first agent for four years, when he revealed himself to Olympique Lyonnais, Frédéric Guerra candidly confided to RMC Sport his sadness at seeing this talent wasted by too much individualism. Whether on or off the pitch, where the 35-year-old Frenchman faced a teammate and coach at Lille over the weekend.

Frederick Waryou who know Hatem Ben Arfa well: where did he go wrong, to lead to the waste of a talent that was presented twenty years ago as the rare pearl of French football?

It bothered him psychologically a long time ago, in his childhood. He was king, king, king. He always told him his rights but never his duties. When I saw him and his parents trusted me, he was convinced that he had a player, if we worked on his mind, that he would be a future Ballon d’Or, he was very talented. He will continue to be a big mess, he may be THE football mess of the 21st century.

Is it the fact that this pearl-to-be label was attached to her too soon that finally served her?

No, there are many players who were told very early that they would be pearls. And who were they? Cristiano Ronaldo soon became a hard worker, someone who always questioned himself. Karim Benzema did exactly the same route. They are people who told themselves that to get to the top you need work, work, work. And that talent was not enough. But his mentor, Michel Ouazine (his adviser and his representative, editor’s note), told him only that talent was enough.

Hatem is 35 years old today, but he will be 17 all his life.

I remember that once in Marseille, Didier Deschamps had put him on the bench. Michel told me: “He puts him on the bench because he asks him to defend. But we don’t ask a future Ballon d’Or to defend!” And he says that in front of Ben Arfa… he can’t help the boy to grow up. Hatem is 35 years old today, but he will be 17 all his life. he is a boy

Ben Arfa and Benzema
Ben Arfa and Benzema © AFP

Karim Benzema, teammates in his younger years at Lyon, seemed inherently less talented on each foot than Ben Arfa at the start. Finally, it is Benzema who will have an extraordinary career…

When I took care of both of them, in U17, I went to see them train. I saw Karim looking at Hatem playfully, to see what he was doing. Karim then tries to do it again, and does it again… Thanks to Hatem, Karim, who had understood that he was second behind him, realized that talent was not going to be enough. He gave him that wish to be the first, and he did very well. Hatem didn’t realize, he thought the talent would be enough. And when we look at him today, he is still convinced of it. I’m sure some psychiatrists would rack their brains over a character as difficult as Hatem’s.

How do you judge its evolution?

During the four years that I took care of him in Lyon, I saw that all the people who were around him are just luggage carriers. His talent goes beyond everything. He is a guy who never asks you for anything but he always makes you feel like you owe him everything. He doesn’t give you respect, but he demands respect. He does not give you coexistence but requires presence. He doesn’t give you a smile, but he demands that you arch your back the entire time.

There will always be someone who believes that Hatem is manageable.

It is someone who only revolves around him, and who gives the impression of sympathy, of empathy. But this is totally false. He is a completely false boy, between the image he tries to give in public and what he really is. He is still a very endearing boy. But that he has a very individualistic functioning, which we also find on the ground. I have a little harsh words with him, because even though he cheated on me for four years, he is a boy I was very fond of. Actually.

We feel a lot of bitterness in his trial…

Hatem should have been an ordinary player, and this talent, he should have given it to someone else who had more self-respect. To be able to show all these children who idolize this type of player, that with work we can reach even higher. In that, I have a real bitterness, yes.

His altercation with Tiago Djalo and Jocelyn GourvennecSaturday in the locker room after Bordeaux (0-0, matchday 30 of Ligue 1), are you surprised?

No. Hatem is a child who has no filter between his brain and his mouth. There are people who mean everything they say, but don’t say everything they mean. Hatem is going to tell him everything he thinks, and with force. What the press informs us., when he says that his team plays too low: it is an analysis of a footballer who may not be wrong at this moment T. On the other hand, adding: “Here we are not at Guingamp”, it is necessarily wanting to hurt his coach who went through the Guingamp. And it is intolerable for a locker room, a president, an institution. Again, if he made a difference like Mbappé at Paris Saint-Germain… but we’re not at Lille, and we won’t be with the next one. Because there will be a next one. There will always be someone who believes that Hatem is manageable and up to the challenge.

Interview by Edward Jay

Leave a Comment