Last night Joey Barton told 1.7 million followers on Twitter: “Early night for me people. Bonne nuit…”
The reason for the sign-off? The Queens Park Rangers midfielder is being heavily linked with a loan move to the south of France, as Ligue 1 side Marseille have made inquiries about the Englishman’s availability.
This, it is fair to say, has come as a shock. At 29 years-old, Barton has had a tumultuous career. He is currently set to serve a long-term ban in the English Premier League, following a sending off in the last game of last season, against his former club Manchester City. Following the dismissal Barton also kicked Sergio Aguero and attempted to headbutt Vincent Kompany.
He was fined six weeks wages by QPR and, more recently, was forced to train at home as the rest of the squad took to a camp in Malaysia.
In order to help see out Barton’s ban more easily the player was linked with a loan to League Two outfit Fleetwood. As lower league clubs play more fixtures earlier in the season—as they compete in the opening rounds of the FA and League cups, as well as other competitions—Barton would have been available to QPR quicker than if he stayed at the club.
In the last few days the deal fell through, but out of the ether comes a proposal from Marseille.
Should the French outfit take on the troubled midfielder, they will do so fully aware of his shortcomings. Although Barton uses platforms like Twitter to quote Nietzsche and to promote gay rights, he cannot hide from his past actions.
When he was at Manchester City, Barton was suspended for putting a cigar out in a youth players face. He had a grizzly fight with teammate Ousmane Dabo during his time there. Reports also suggest that teammates once had to restrain Barton when he had altercations with a young man who supported Everton.
Although he tried to reform, and even showed good enough form at Newcastle to see himself given an England cap, he conspired to net himself a move away from the club when manager Alan Pardew came into the club.
At QPR he was gifted a captain’s role as a reward for his hard work. He was garnering praise for his attempts to show a literary touch and writing articles for the likes of The Big Issue, a magazine sold in order to help provide aid to the homeless of Britain.
However, as he had more and more public spats with reality TV stars on Twitter and displays at QPR lapsed, Barton came under more pressure. Things boiled over in the last game of the season and Barton left the field with an offensively violent flourish.
Exile in Ligue 1 could be exactly what Barton needs, but the problem is how he copes with the cultural change. Starved of limelight, he is capable of being a footballing asset. He craves the attention, though, and in a foreign environment, with a diminished caché, Barton could be dangerous to himself.
The best thing for Joey Barton would be to go to France and just play the game. Anything else and he may be opening himself up to new pressures and a high position to fall from. Here’s hoping he has the maturity to see this.