Premier League

Newcastle star Hatem Ben Arfa feels he could have been as good as Lionel Messi

Hatem Ben Arfa: Regrets some early decisions

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Newcastle United star Hatem Ben Arfa feels he could have been playing at a level comparable to Lionel Messi, if not for problems earlier in his career.

The one-time bad-boy of French football saw his career falter in France which preceded his move to St James' Park.

As a teenager at Lyon he was linked with a big-money move - but he shocked the country when he joined Marseille in 2008.

After falling out of favour at the Stade Velodrome he moved to England, where he has largely flourished and has shown some brilliance which reminded everyone of why he was so highly-rated as a youngster.

And he admits that he regrets not maturing earlier in his career.

"I regret not being mature earlier, because I think that today I would be playing at a higher level," he told Surface magazine in an interview to be published on Thursday.

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

Ben Arfa, who is back in full training with Newcastle following a lengthy hamstring lay-off, is hopeful he can help lead France to the World Cup in 2014.

"In my head, I've still got the 2014 World Cup. For me, it's impossible I don't play in it," he said.

"The current generation has a lot of talented players. But I think they lack leaders."