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Could MLS rescue Hatem Ben Arfa from his inescapable FIFA prison?


Hatem Ben Arfa is stuck.

Having transferred from Newcastle to Ligue 1 side Nice to rid himself of the Magpie bog he’d slowly sunk deeper and deeper into, things have completely backfired, all thanks to FIFA fine print.

FIFA rules state a player may not play “official matches” for more than two teams in a single season, likely to prevent loan loopholes or seriously out of hand player movement. Unfortunately, that rule has Ben Arfa ensnared in an inescapable situation.

Having spent most of the first half of this year on loan at Hull City before his own laziness caused the Tigers to lose patience and cancel the deal, Ben Arfa was looking for a permanent way out of Newcastle. He found it in Nice, and the two parties quickly came to an agreement. Newcastle was happy to offload its sometime brilliant, mostly disinterested 27-year-old. Nice was happy to give a Frenchman who still had plenty to offer (when he felt like it) a fresh start.

But according to FIFA, one Newcastle U-21 game that Ben Arfa played in on August 25 - before his loan to Hull materialized - counts as an “official match” and therefore has Ben Arfa at the 2-club limit for this year. He cannot play for anyone else but Newcastle or Hull, who both happen to hate his guts. Thus ends his chance of playing again this year.

According to his lawyer today, the FIFA ruling has Ben Arfa considering retirement. “He has had thoughts tonight of no longer playing football,” said Jean-Jacques Bertrand.

But could Major League Soccer save Ben Arfa’s career? According to the Daily Mail, Ben Arfa could play in Major League Soccer since their 2015 season begins in March, and the official FIFA rule states “players may be registered with a maximum of three clubs during one season. During this period, the player is only eligible to play official matches for two clubs.”

“During one season.” Horray for loopholes!

Would anyone in MLS want a player like Ben Arfa? He’s already stated he wants to play in his home country of France, but with that no longer an option, could a move to the United States - even temporarily - trump retirement? Because the transfer window only applies to the purchasing team, a sale from Newcastle to MLS would not be restricted by the English window and therefore would not need to be completed by tonight.

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