Following Hatem Ben Arfa’s recent clash with Jocelyn Gourvennec at Lille, RMC Sport spoke to his former agent, Frédéric Guerra, who managed the Frenchman for four years, in his youth, when he was touted as one of the best talents around.
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When did things start to go wrong?
“Things have been wrong psychologically for a long time, since his childhood. He was the king, the king, the king. He was always told his rights but never his responsibilities. When I noticed him and that his parents trusted me, I was convinced I had a player who would go on to win a Ballon d’Or, such was his talent. It remains a great waste, he’s perhaps the biggest wasted talent of 21st century football.”
Is it due to too much praise, too early in his career?
“No, there are plenty of players who we tell will be pearls. And who have gone on to be. Cristiano Ronaldo became a hard worker very early, someone who is always asking himself more questions. Karim Benzema had exactly the same journey. These are people that told themselves, to reach the top, you have to work, work, work. And that talent was not enough. I remember one time at Marseille, Didier Deschamps put him on the bench. Michel [Ouazine, advisor and representative] told me, ‘He’s putting him on the bench because he’s asking him to defend. But you don’t ask a future Ballon d’Or winner to defend!’ And he said this in front of Ben Arfa. That surely can’t help a boy to grow up. Hatem is 35 now, but he’ll be 17 all his life. He’s a child.”