Hatem Ben Arfa could return to the Paris Saint-Germain side for Friday’s Ligue 1 clash against Toulouse, head coach Unai Emery has suggested.
The former Nice and Newcastle United man has been frozen out of the champions’ matchday squad for their previous three fixtures, with his last appearance coming in the 1-1 draw with Saint-Etienne on September 9.
Reports in France have claimed that Emery has lost patience with Ben Arfa, telling the 29-year-old “you’re not Lionel Messi” after becoming frustrated with his attitude.
Claude Puel, who was Ben Arfa’s coach at Nice last season, is rumoured to be lining up a bid to bring the notoriously volatile midfielder to Southampton in January if his exile at Parc des Princes continues.
Emery, however, has hinted at a possible recall for Ben Arfa for Friday’s game at Stadium Municipal, after insisting that he will make a decision following Thursday’s training session, as he would with any other player.
“All the players are working to be with the team,” he said. “My decision is to choose the ones who are best prepared. It’ll be in the afternoon, after training.
“I said what I feel: all the players are the same. I work in the same way. I spoke with Hatem, as I do with all my players.”
Emery says he will be cautious with Marco Verratti, however, with the Italy international battling to recover from a calf problem.
“All the players are important. So is Verratti. He has good qualities,” he said.
“The season is long, it’s possible that he has some muscle fatigue and you have to work step-by-step with him. It’s a small injury, we’ll have to see when he will be back.”
PSG have endured a mixed start to the campaign and sit a point behind league-leaders Nice after six matches, and Emery feels any suggestion that Ligue 1 is straightforward for his side should not be taken seriously.
“All games are difficult, in France, in Spain…” said the 44-year-old. “If you want to beat Toulouse, you need to be well prepared for the match. The analysis of the opposing team, of the players…
“We have to respect all opponents. We’re not top of Ligue 1. Our objective is to have the title after 38 matches.
“Nice-Monaco was a good game. Monaco have started the championship well. Lyon also started well this summer, Toulouse are two points behind us, Bordeaux are not far away.
“I’m very focused on the championship.”