Hatem Ben Arfa: 'I could have been like Lionel Messi'

Hatem Ben Arfa runs around delighted after nabbing an equaliser for Newcastle on December 10, 2012
© PA Photos
Hatem Ben Arfa says that he could have been as good as Lionel Messi if it were not for his poor attitude as a teenager.

Newcastle United winger Hatem Ben Arfa has insisted that he could have been just as good as Lionel Messi if he had not been a bad boy as a teenager.

The Frenchman has had a negative reputation in his home country since he came to public attention as a youngster in a TV documentary about his time at France's elite training centre in Clairefontaine.

The 25-year-old believes that his poor attitude is the reason he has not yet fulfilled his potential.

"I regret not being mature earlier, because I think that today I would be playing at a higher level," Ben Arfa told Surface magazine.

"Perhaps I would be like [Messi] today. But I've still got time, I can catch him up.

"In my head, I've still got the 2014 World Cup. For me, it's impossible I don't play in it. The current generation has a lot of talented players. But I think they lack leaders."

Ben Arfa has been on the sidelines since the middle of December because of a hamstring injury.

Hatem Ben Arfa runs around delighted after nabbing an equaliser for Newcastle on December 10, 2012
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