Ben Arfa regrets immaturity
Newcastle attacker Hatem Ben Arfa believes a lack of maturity early in his career has prevented him from reaching his true potential.
The midfielder was touted for success from a young age, working his way through the Lyon youth system before making his professional bow at the age of 17.
However, disputes at both his first club and again at Marseille tarnished his reputation and stunted his progression, before he was loaned to Newcastle and later made his move permanent.
And Ben Arfa reckons he still has plenty of time to match Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi's talent.
"I regret not being mature earlier, because I think today I'd have evolved to a higher level. Maybe I'd be like Lionel Messi today. But I still have time, I can catch up," he told le 10 Sport
Ben Arfa was overlooked for the France squads for both Euro 2008 and World Cup 2010, and has not added to his 13 caps since a disagreement with coach Laurent Blanc at Euro 2012.
The midfielder, however, is determined to win a place in the squad for the World Cup in Brazil at the end of next season.
"In my mind, I always have World Cup 2014, and for me it is impossible that I do not go," he said.
"In the current generation, there are many talented players. But I think that there is a lack of leaders. If I had to give it a name, I would say that Karim Benzema can be a leader."
The attacker has been out since the end of last year with a hamstring injury but is due to return to action shortly.