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Ben Arfa closing in on shock return

Newcastle United playmaker Hatem Ben Arfa could be ready to make his comeback from a double leg fracture much sooner than expected, according to his agent.

Ben Arfa, 23, has been out of action since October after a tackle by Manchester City midfielder Nigel de Jong left him with a double fracture to his left leg.

The former Marseille midfielder was initially expected to be out for the rest of the season, but his agent Simon Stainrod claimed he is "as fit as a fiddle" and could be ready to make a shock return in a matter of weeks.

"I saw him last week and Hatem is absolutely flying," Stainrod said in the Daily Star. "He's been away to Dubai for a bit of warm weather training and now he's back in France and training really, really hard.

"There are no miracles with an injury like his and he knows it is hard work that he needs to do, but he's as fit as a fiddle."

Ben Arfa had made just four appearances for the Magpies when he was sidelined three months ago, but his impact was such that he was signed on a permanent deal at the start of January.

Meanwhile, Newcastle defender Fabricio Coloccini has revealed his delight at receiving praise from manager Alan Pardew following his "stand out" performance against Tottenham on Saturday.

"I am really pleased to hear what the manager has said," Coloccini said. "I am calm, I am quite quiet really, but sometimes you need to be like that as a defender.

"I like to try and anticipate what is going to happen in the game. For the manager to describe me as one of the best defenders he has worked with is also good.

"He has a lot of experience in the Premier League and he watches a lot of centre-backs so I am proud to hear that."

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