7th March – Hatem Ben Arfa

Hatem Ben Arfa will go down as one of the greatest players to never reach his full potential in England, being the most exciting player on the pitch to the most frustrating in a matter of seconds.

Despite only being 28 there have been some suggestions that he is contemplating retiring from the game after a terrible season that will see him end it as a free agent due to a FIFA ruling. The winger would be a great addition to any side if he could play to the best of his abilities and it is probably why he will be a wanted man in the summer.

Ben Arfa started his career at Lyon, signing his first professional contract in 2004 and made his debut on the opening day of the season against Nice. After more substitute appearance he would score his first goal on the 10th November against Lille. But he wouldn’t really become a regular until the 2007-08 season. He performed very well throughout the season and was named the National Union of Professional Footballers Young Player of the Year. It seemed like he would be an important member of the side for a long time to come after signing a contract extension in March 2008 but a training ground scuffle with Sebastien Squillaci meant his time at the club was up.

HBA Lyon

After a long transfer saga Ben Arfa eventually joined Marseille on the 1st July but it wasn’t long before he was in another bust up as on the 16th July he was involved in one with Djibril Cisse. On his debut however he showed his qualities by scoring against Rennes and in his first 11 matches he hit the back of the net six times. More controversy followed as he was involved in disputes with Modeste M’Bami and manager Eric Gerets. His performances when he was on the pitch were usually of the highest quality but trouble was never far away as in the next season he was fined for missing training and got in yet another argument with new manager Didier Deschamps. He would play 29 times for the club as they won the Ligue 1 title but this was not enough for him to stay at the club.

HBA Marseille

On the 27th August 2010 Ben Arfa joined Newcastle United on a season long loan after many weeks of trouble. But it seemed like it was worth it as on his full debut he scored a brilliant goal against Everton but on the 3rd October his season was over after he suffered a broken tibia and fibula. Despite this the two clubs agreed a permanent transfer. He would have to wait until the 24th September 2011 to make his Premier League return in a 3-1 win over Blackburn Rovers. In the second half of the season he scored two individual goals, firstly in the FA Cup against Blackburn and against Bolton Wanderers. During this time he was an important part of the team and combined brilliantly with Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse.

HBA NU

The next season also started very well as he scored on the opening day against Tottenham Hotspur and then two weeks later hit a great equaliser against Aston Villa. Injuries disrupted the second half of the season but he scored in the win over QPR to guarantee the club’s safety. Once again the 2013-14 season started well for him as he scored against Fulham and was also in great form against Aston Villa, scoring and making an assist. Unfortunately he didn’t perform for the rest of the season. On the 2nd September 2014 he joined Hull City on loan but this only last nine games and manager Steve Bruce admitted at one point he didn’t even know where he was. On the 4th January he was released by Newcastle and signed for Nice the next day. But FIFA ruled that he could not play for them and his contract was terminated.

The final word can go to former teammate Yohan Cabaye. “For me, he remains an extraordinary player with enormous quality. It is true that it was harder for him late in the season. He is going to bounce back. For me, this is one of the players I’ve played with who has the highest quality.”

5th June – Junior Hoilett

Junior Hoilett helped QPR return to the Premier League after they beat Derby County in the playoff final and will be hoping to help the team avoid relegation next year.

Some people may argue that QPR will be aiming higher than just surviving and with quality players in their squad it is easy to see why people make this argument. However they did limp over the line and were not exactly the best team to watch in the Championship but they did still get the job done. Hoilett played a big part in Bobby Zamora’s last minute winner that got them promoted and this will surely give the 24 year old confidence to perform well in the Premier League.

It has not always been easy for the winger in England as he was unable to obtain a work permit and could not play for first club Blackburn Rovers until he got this sorted. He was loaned out by Blackburn to help the situation and to give him game time, he first joined Paderborn in Germany and made his debut at the age of 17. However, it would not be a great season as the club were relegated from the Bundesliga but the Canadian player did manage to score his first professional goal against Borussia Monchengladbach in his last game.

He was then loaned out once more to another German club, this time to St Pauli and he was definitely growing as a player and getting better. He finished the season with six goals in 21 games and then when the season was finished he was finally given a work permit that allowed him to play in England.
Hoilett SP
It did not take him long to make an impact as he scored on the 25th August 2009 in a League Cup game against Gillingham and he had a lot of success in the tournament. He won a penalty in a quarter final match against Chelsea and then after the game finished 3-3 he stepped up and scored the decisive spot kick sending his team through. Hoilett was now playing more minutes and in February 2010 he signed an extension to his contract ending speculation he was going to leave the club.

The 2010-11 season was when he really let everyone know that he was going to be a threat as he scored five times in 24 games and would have been involved more if he had not suffered a few injuries throughout the season. In the next season he followed this up with more goals and better performances and in January 2012 he was named as one of the players to watch by FIFA and at the end of the season he had the most dribbles per game in the Premier League but this would be his last at Blackburn.
Hoilett Blackburn
On the 27th July he joined QPR and scored his first goal in a 3-2 League cup defeat by Reading. He did not quite play as much as he would have liked but he did set up an important Loic Remy goal in a victory over Southampton. But this, and his two goals were not good enough to keep the club in the Premier League. In the Championship he only scored four times but he provided a lot more than just goals and was always a threat to the opposition.
Hoilett QPR
The final word can go to his manager at both Blackburn and QPR Mark Hughes. “He was just a young boy trying to make his way in the game when I had him at Blackburn. We knew then he was going to have a great future and he’s shown he’s a player that can make things happen, both on his own and as a team player.”

1st May – Marc Vivien Foe and Christian Benitez

Today is the birthday of two players that tragically died during their playing days and will be forever remembered.

Marc Vivien Foe was only 28 and Christian Benitez was only 27. Foe suddenly collapsed in the 72nd minute of a match for Cameroon against Brazil and Benitez died shortly after complaining about strong pains in his abdomen.

Foe started his career in 1991 for one of the biggest clubs in Cameroon, Canon Yaounde and stayed there for three years before signing for French club Lens. He made his debut in a 2-1 victory over Montpellier and won the French League title with the club in 1998. A season later he was linked with Manchester United and they bid £3 million for him but this was rejected by Lens.
Foe Cameroon
He did eventually come to the Premier League when he signed for West Ham for £4.2 million and played 38 league matches for the club scoring one goal against Sheffield Wednesday but at the end of the year he joined Lyon for £6 million. He missed most of his first season at the club after contracting malaria but when he recovered he helped his team win the French League Cup and for the second time in his career Ligue 1.

In 2002 he returned to the Premier League with Manchester City and after an amazing season in which he scored 9 goals in 35 league games he also has the honour of scoring the club’s final goal at Maine Road. Unfortunately he would not play club football again as he sadly passed way at the 2003 Confederations Cup.

Fifa President Sepp Blatter said: “Fifa and the whole family of football are shattered by this unbelievable tragedy. Football has lost a remarkable player and remarkable man.”
Foe Man City
Christian Benitez was the son of former Ecuadorian international Ermen Benitez and followed in his father’s footsteps by playing for the national side on 58 occasions scoring 24 goals. ‘Chucho’ started his career at El Nacional and had an impressive goalscoring record for them scoring 29 goals in 83 matches.
Benitez Ecuador
In July 2007 he transferred to Mexico to play for Santos Laguna and in his four years at the club he scored 51 times in 95 games which made a lot of European clubs take notice of him. Birmingham City decided to take a chance on him and signed him on loan after a long transfer saga for the 2009-10 season. He made his debut as a substitute on the opening day of the season against Manchester United and could have scored if it wasn’t for a wonderful one handed save by Ben Foster. He scored his first goal for the club in a 2-2 draw away to Liverpool and scored two classy goals against Everton but this was as good as it got for him and after only four goals for the club Birmingham chose not to sign him permanently.
Benitez Birmingham
He then returned to Santos Laguna and finished as their top scorer in his first season back. Although he had signed a new three year deal he transferred to Club America for $10 million dollars on the 22nd May 2011 and went on to play 79 times for the club scoring 52 goals.

His final transfer was to El Jaish Sports Club where he only played one game before sadly dying a day later. The final word can go to former teammate Lee Carsley. “It’s devastating news. I remember he had outstanding ability, was very quick and was a bit of a free spirit. He was a popular player in the dressing room, he got a grasp of the Birmingham accent quickly. It is sad to lose anyone like this.”