Newcastle United’s Ben Arfa could be at Barcelona – Karim

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HATEM Ben Arfa should be playing alongside Lionel Messi at Barcelona – and not some footballing outpost in Qatar.

That’s the view of the Frenchman’s former team-mate Karim Benzema as speculation over the Newcastle United winger’s future hots up.

Ben Arfa was linked with a move to the Middle East by a number of reports over the weekend.

The enigmatic forward seems certain to leave Tyneside this summer after falling down the pecking order at St James’s Park.

But while there have been rumours of interest from Italian duo Inter Milan and AS Roma, so far no concrete bids have been received for Ben Arfa.

The 27-year-old has seen his career fizzle away after being tipped as a world-class star when he was a youngster growing up in France.

Benzema, who scored twice as France beat Honduras 3-0 last night, played alongside Ben Arfa at Lyon, but their careers have taken very different paths since, with Benzema leading the line for Real Madrid and France in their World Cup game against Honduras.

And the striker hinted his old pal has no one to blame but himself for not making the most of his undoubted talent.

He told media in France: “If Hatem had followed the path that was promised to him, today he would play in Barcelona with Messi.

“Technically, he is identical. Hereafter, he has other problems.

“He needs to work in his head not to drop off.”

Ben Arfa fell out of favour under Newcastle manager Alan Pardew in the second half of last season amid concerns over his workrate, fitness and attitude.

Senior players at the club were also believed to be unhappy with the winger, who’s close friend Yohan Cabaye left the club in January in a £20m move to Paris St Germain.

Ben Arfa, however, remains a big favourite with many Newcastle supporters, who will be hoping they haven’t seen him play his last game in a black and white strip.