Newcastle United’s 2-0 victory against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge last May 2 made immediate waves for the unforgettable quality of Papiss Demba Cisse’s brace (his second goal, a sensational right-footed volley that looped over Petr Cech and into the side netting, was heralded in many circles as the goal of the season), but another Newcastle player might see a more tangible (see: monetary) reward for his performance that day.
L’Equipe, France’s leading sports newspaper, have reported that Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich was so impressed with Toon right winger Hatem Ben Arfa’s performance in that match that he has made the French international, currently at the European Championships, where he has made one substitute appearance, one of the priorities of an offseason transfer campaign geared toward making an aging Chelsea side younger, but without sacrificing quality.
Eden Hazard, Marko Marin and Kevin De Bruyne have already been brought in on full deals, and with a mega deal for the Brazilian Hulk not yet finalized (there have been rumors the fee could rise to £38 million), Abramovich has rekindled his pursuit for the 25-year-old former Marseille player.
Ben Arfa is under contract at St. James Park until 2015, having been signed to a permanent deal in January 2011 after joining Newcastle on loan to start the 2010-11 season.
But L’Equipe revealed that Ben Arfa is curious about Chelsea’s potential offer, and wishes to meet with manager Roberto Di Matteo, signed this week to a permanent deal, to discuss what sort of playing time he would be offered at a club that has already brought in three wing players this offseason.
Despite finishing a disappointing sixth in the Premier League in 2011-12, Chelsea won the FA Cup and accomplished an unfathomable feat in capturing the Champions League title, long considered Abramovich’s Holy Grail, by defeating Barcelona in the semifinals and Bayern Munich at their own Allianz Arena.
That victory means Chelsea earned automatic entry to next season’s Champions League, a chip that Abramovich could use to lure Ben Arfa to his club. Newcastle, despite finishing one spot ahead of Chelsea in fifth, will join fourth-placed Tottenham in the Europa League for 2012-13.