Paying tribute to the two forgotten tricksters who temporarily did the business in England

AT

We miss prime time Ben Arfa

Sometimes in football, players come along and just astound you. Some players have the ability to effortlessly glide past the opposition and curl inch-perfect shots into the top-bin. Some players can find their way out of the tightest pockets of space, nutmegging whom ever dare stand in their way.

These players are rare, their natural talent so raw and uncut that they're a delight to watch on a weekly basis. The obvious examples of these type of footballers are Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Eden Hazard. These players grab the headlines every time they step foot on the pitch; their class so evidently above the rest, wizards of the footballing world, if you will.

However, there are a small selection of players who are almost just as talented as the aforementioned superstars, players that never quite realised their potential within the professional game but were just as pleasurable to watch perform whilst in their prime.

Hatem Ben Arfa is one of the best examples - the Frenchman is blessed with so much talent, can flip a game on its head within a split second, carrying the ball from one end of the field to another, brushing aside bullish central midfielders whilst leaving helpless defenders in his wake before slotting home. Modern art, you could call it.

The former Newcastle man, who also counts Lyon, Marseille, Hull City, Nice, Paris Saint-Germain and Rennes on his CV, lit up the Premier League during the 2011-12 campaign with a string of impressive displays for the Magpies. During that season, Lancashire took a battering by the creative midfielder when he scored two of the best goals that you'll ever see against Blackburn Rovers and Bolton Wanderers, the poor, poor sods. There isn't much more I can say about these goals, just that they're bloody fantastic.

Take a look at them for yourself, because explaining them simply won't do it justice, but bear in mind that Jonas Gutierrez - you know, the striker who before joining Newcastle supposedly pulled out a Spiderman mask each time he scored a goal, but never actually did it in England - compared the goal to that of Diego Maradona's against England in '86, hell of a tribute.

Now plying his trade in his homeland of France with Ligue 1 Rennes, Ben Arfa is back in his comfort zone following an unsuccessful two-year stint at PSG. Seven goals in 33 appearances this season isn't a tragic return, but you can't help but think the 32-year-old has somewhat wasted what could have been a glistening career at the very top had he have continued to perform to the same level as he did in the early days at St. James' Park. Shame.

Anyway, here's a few more of his best goals, they make for great viewing. Enjoy.

Bohemian Taraabtsody

Precisely 1,387 days after Adel Taraabt signed for Portugese titans Benfica, the former QPR midfielder finally made his long-awaited debut for the first-team in a 1-0 win over relegation-threatened Tondela on Saturday night. The Moroccan was introduced as a second-half substitute at the Estadio da Luz, having spent the previous three years playing for the club's reserve team in the Portugese second division, alongside a season in Italy with Genoa in 2017-18.

Still only 29 years old, Taraabt should be in his prime now, starting for one of Europe's biggest clubs, competing against the very best in the Champions League. Instead, he finds himself struggling to nail down a starting spot in Portugal. It's not down to quality, we all know he's got bags of that from his time spent in England with Tottenham and QPR, so what exactly has put an end to Taraabt's career at the top?

He was a joy to watch in London, regularly treating us to an array of long range worldies, step-overs, Paneka spot-kicks, heel flicks and Cruyff turns. Taraabt played without fear, always took the game to his opponents and scared the living shit out of anyone who tried to tackle him.

The North African made the game look so easy and was tipped for stardom after a scintillating campaign for the R's in 2010-11. Voted the Championship's player of the season, Taraabt's 19 goals and 21 assists helped fire Rangers to the Premier League; he was one of the most exciting footballers in England, and still only 19 years old. Sadly Adel never replicated that unforgettable season in the second-tier though. Maybe the Premier League proved too much of a stretch? Or maybe, his heart just wasn't in it.

Taraabt was always a luxury player, you'd rarely see him busting a bollock to win back possession like James Milner would do even in training or an exhibition match. He'd float about the pitch like Mesut Ozil, waiting for the ball to come to him, not the other way around and that was alright, because when the ball did arrive at his feet you knew something special was about to happen. A perfectly weighted through ball, a shot from distance that tests the keeper, a pointless skill that's sole objective was to just bring delight to the crowd.

When the skills started to falter and the goals dried up though, Taraabt's work rate came into question. Future R's manager Harry Redknapp would claim that the Moroccan playmaker was the worst professional he'd ever come across, called him fat and even said that he could run more than the midfielder when Taraabt briefly returned to Loftus Road in 2014.

“He is not fit to play a game, that’s the truth. He is the worst professional I have ever come across and I have been his only ally at QPR for the past three years. He doesn’t try and I have protected him for too long,” said Redknapp during an interview five years ago.

It's clear Taraabt wasn't bothered about his progression in the Premier League and evident that when the going got tough, he wanted out. Another huge waste of talent that will almost certainly now do nothing with his career despite bags of ability. Taraabt, we thank you for lighting up our English shores, albeit it just for one season. It was special, it was a pleasure, and you'll always have a place in our hearts.

Here's some of his best bits.


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