OGC Nice forward Hatem Ben Arfa has rejected claims that he travelled to Barcelona on Monday (8 May) as rumours continued he is set to complete an imminent free transfer to the Nou Camp. In a brief exchange published on the club's official website, the 29-year-old confirmed that he remains on the French Riviera ahead of the final match of the current Ligue 1 campaign at Guingamp's Stade de Roudourou this weekend.
"I'm not traveling abroad, contrary to what I read. I am in Nice," he said. "I am only focused on travelling to Guingamp like all my teammates. I am 100% focused on my goals with OGC Nice."
Such a denial appears at odds with a recent report from L'Equipe, which revealed Ben Arfa had been spotted at Paris Orly Airport ahead of a second visit to Barcelona in a matter of days. The France international, who was expected to visit the club's facilities, is out of contract in June and has attracted attention from the La Liga leaders after a surprising renaissance that has seen him score 17 goals in 36 appearances for Claude Puel's Champions League hopefuls.
That is some improvement from Ben Arfa, who signed an 18-month deal with Nice in January 2015 after having his Newcastle United contract terminated in the aftermath of an unsuccessful loan spell at Hull City. However, he was prevented from making his debut due to Fifa rules which state that a player can register for three clubs during the same season but can only play for two and later joined the club again during the next transfer window.
Barcelona are not the only suitors vying for the services of an undeniably talented player who has been frequently criticised in the past for alleged attitude problems, with Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas admitting that he had spoken to the former Marseille attacker and revealed that he had yet to decide upon his next move. Ben Arfa began his career at the Stade de Gerland, winning four consecutive domestic titles before leaving for a fee of £10m in 2008.
"I had an exchange with Hatem yesterday" he told French radio station RTL, per ESPN. "Hatem has not made a definitive decision. I think that like with Alexandre [Lacazette] at a certain point, he realises that it's prestigious and wonderful to go to Barca. On the other hand, entering into competition with the three superstars, is it a good thing when you're coming to the end of your career and when you really want to have an extraordinary season?"