LIVERPOOL cult hero Djibril Cisse has sensationally claimed that former Newcastle winger Hatem Ben Arfa is technically as good as Lionel Messi.
The pair briefly played together at Marseille at the start of the 2008-09 campaign before Cisse joined Sunderland on a season-long loan deal.
And the duo were also team-mates on the international stage for France with both players named in Les Blues’ World Cup 2010 preliminary squad, where Ben Arfa missed out on the final cut.
Despite their limited time together, Ben Arfa appears to have made a lasting impression on Cisse – who won the Champions League with the Reds in 2005.
Speaking on YouTube show Soyons Foot, the 40-year-old compared his compatriot to Barcelona legend Messi.
He said: “Technically, Hatem… I might seem crazy but I think that Ben Arfa at a good level is as good as a Messi.
“I’ve seen him do things. I’ll say it again, Hatem at his best, is Messi.”
Ben Arfa, 34, mesmerised fans during his stay at St James’ Park between 2010-2014 – notably wowing supporters with his superb solo strike against Bolton in 2012.
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But his performances were inconsistent in England, and after a failed loan spell at Hull, he returned to Ligue 1 where he instantly became a hit at Nice.
After 17 top-flight goals in the 2015-16 season he linked up with Paris Saint-Germain, but he quickly fell out of favour and was overlooked for the entire 2017-18 term.
Ben Arfa, who won titles with Lyon, Marseille and PSG, then claimed silverware with Rennes the following campaign in what was their first trophy since 1983.
Rennes beat Les Parisiens in the Coupe de France final, with Ben Arfa incredibly scoring against his former side in the dramatic penalty shootout.
The forward is currently a free agent after being released by Bordeaux in the summer after yet again falling out with management.
He was linked with a switch to Tunisian side Esperance de Tunis last month after holding talks regarding a two-year contract.
A Tunisian source said: “If [Esperance chairman] Hamdi Meddeb succeeds in attracting the Franco-Tunisian star, this will undoubtedly be the football event of the year.
“This would be a masterstroke in terms of marketing and communications.”
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