For a player who has yet to get near a first-team place at Newcastle United so far this season, Hatem Ben Arfa still attracts an awful lot of headlines.
As a player he excites; as a person he intrigues.
Ben Arfa splits much of the fanbase, but the current situation does not appear to be helping anyone.
The Frenchman’s camp is strongly indicating the player wants to stay and fight for his place at Newcastle, despite the fact he is not wanted by the club.
The reasons behind Ben Arfa’s exclusion from first-team duties are sound enough.
Dressing room arguments with manager Alan Pardew, extremely questionable displays last season and unauthorised ‘press conferences’ with selected journalists led not only Pardew to question the player, but also Ben Arfa’s team-mates.
Patience wore thin, and Ben Arfa’s position as a Newcastle player was judged to be untenable.
The fact he turned up for pre-season apparently overweight certainly didn’t help the situation, and so he was ordered to train with the club’s development squad.
However, no serious bidder has come forward for Ben Arfa’s services, despite the undoubted quality he has.
On his day, the Frenchman can be one of the best players in the Premier League. He’s certainly one of the most gifted individuals to ply his trade at St James’s Park in recent times.
His professional reputation has taken a battering, though, so much so that it appears no club is willing to take a chance on a player who has fallen out with almost every manager he has worked under.
Ben Arfa can be temperamental. He needs to be nurtured carefully, and at times he needs to be indulged.
Does his record at Newcastle suggest he deserves that? Probably not.
He has provided some truly memorable moments, and a handful of performances to take the breath away.
Ben Arfa has infuriated his manager and team-mates in equal measure, though, despite the rare ability he possesses to get fans on the edge of their seat and take games away from opponents.
Is there a way back for Ben Arfa under Pardew? The chances of that appear to remain slim.
Of course, we are not privy to every conversation which goes on behind closed doors, and perhaps there are more reasons behind Ben Arfa’s exclusion which have not yet been revealed.
However, it would help if Pardew was a bit more open on the subject.
He has made every attempt to avoid the Ben Arfa question since the squad returned for pre-season training, but Pardew needs to explain the situation.
With Newcastle looking to sell Ben Arfa, the club would not be happy for Pardew to publicly criticise the player. That could affect his market value.
But if the transfer window slams shut and the 27-year-old remains a Newcastle player, it is going to become a subject Pardew simply cannot avoid.
With one year left on his contract and still picking up sizeable wages, Ben Arfa remains an asset to Newcastle.
Would Mike Ashley accept one of the club’s top earners spending a year training with and playing for the reserves? Unlikely.
Because of that, it’s likely that, come September, Ben Arfa will have to be reintegrated into the first-team squad.
Judging by the reports from the Under-21s’ 5-2 win at Reading earlier this week, he is in good shape.
Ben Arfa is fit, firing and certainly looks like he would improve the first-team squad, which has lacked a cutting edge so far this season.
Only those who have seen him regularly on the training ground will know whether the Frenchman has truly earned a first-team recall, but in pure football terms, it makes perfect sense.
Newcastle have not looked threatening in their first three games this season, and Ben Arfa’s reintroduction would surely help improve that situation.
At one point, his position appeared untenable, and perhaps it remains so for Pardew and some of the senior players.
However, unless Newcastle improve significantly in creating and taking chances in the coming weeks, the calls for Ben Arfa’s return will become deafening.
For fans deeply frustrated with Pardew’s management, Ben Arfa is a stick to beat him with.
There are many more issues with Pardew’s stewardship of the club than just the Ben Arfa situation, but it is arguably the most high-profile.
A player supporters know can win matches almost on his own is waiting in the wings, sidelined by a manager whose standing among the fanbase remains extremely low.
If Newcastle again struggle going forward against Crystal Palace this weekend, with Ben Arfa still nowhere to be seen, his name will be heard around St James’s Park.
It would be some statement for Pardew to reintroduce him to the fore, but it’s becoming increasingly likely that he will be left with little choice but to do so.
Ben Arfa has been strongly punished for all his alleged misdemeanours, and he has surely served his time.
Football needs unpredictability, excitement and players that can truly connect with the fans. Despite all his faults, Ben Arfa ticks all those boxes.
It’s time for the mercurial Frenchman to be handed another chance.