Remember Hatem Ben Arfa? The Newcastle United 'maverick' is climbing the rankings in a new niche sport

Hatem Ben Arfa has become somewhat of a cult hero (Image: Getty Images)Hatem Ben Arfa has become somewhat of a cult hero (Image: Getty Images)
Hatem Ben Arfa has become somewhat of a cult hero (Image: Getty Images) | AFP via Getty Images
The former Magpies man was always unpredictable and has proved that a leopard never changes its spots with a new sporting venture.

One of the first words Newcastle United supporters may associate with former Magpie Hatem Ben Arfa is unpredictable and the winger doesn't appear to have changed eight years after leaving St James' Park.

The 36-year-old has taken his career in an unusual direction in the 17 months he has spent without a club since leaving Lille as a free agent after the 2021/22 season. Ben Arfa is now an avid padel player and is a regular in competitions for the niche sport.

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Padel is an up-and-coming form of racket ball which is often thought of as a mix between tennis and squash and is hugely popular on the continent. French outlet Le Parisien uncovered the star's new pastime and quote padel referee Roland Mermillod who says that the former winger dedicates almost all his time to the sport. Mermillos said: "Hatem doesn't do anything more than that. He plays almost every day."

Ben Arfa is making progress in the game too, climbing up the rankings in France. The star is currently ranked a respectable 1,342nd of over 42,000 players registered on the standings.

The Frenchman has not officially retired from football but his new ventures do suggest that he is fully committed to life on the padel court for now.

Ben Arfa spent five years at Newcastle United, making a loan move from Marseille permanent in 2011. The forward is widely thought of as one of the most technically gifted players to grace the St James' Park pitch but ultimately he lacked the consistency to leave a lasting impact on the club and league.

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The former Newcastle man scored famous, solo goals against Everton, Bolton Wanderers and Blackburn Rovers while playing in black-and-white before a brief loan spell at Hull City and release from his contract. The player has gone on to play for Paris Saint-Germain, Rennes, Bordeaux and Lille.

Hatem Ben Arfa has become somewhat of a cult hero (Image: Getty Images)Hatem Ben Arfa has become somewhat of a cult hero (Image: Getty Images)
Hatem Ben Arfa has become somewhat of a cult hero (Image: Getty Images) | AFP via Getty Images

Ex-Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew has since reflected on working with 'maverick' Ben Arfa when in the North East. When working at Crystal Palace and preparing to work with Emmanuel Adebayor, he said: As a manager, you get different kinds of mavericks. You get a rebellious maverick, a maverick who can produce a moment like Yala Bolasie. And you get characters who are mavericks. They are all different.

“They all come with different ingredients and you have to make sure you hit the right buttons with them. I like to think I am old and wise enough to try and get Ade in a position where I am getting the best out of him.

“Some mavericks you can lose, sometimes it gets away from you and becomes problematic. Ben Arfa up at Newcastle became impossible.

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“It hasn’t happened many times in my career and I don’t think it will happen with Ade. He doesn’t strike me as that type, he strikes me as a player that needs to have faith.

“I am expressing that to him at this time because I do believe in him. I like big players, big characters. They don’t scare me, they don’t frighten me."

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