Newcastle United midfielder Joey Barton has been told he can leave the Premier League team on a free transfer after his stormy relationship with the club finally reached breaking point.
Barton was already unhappy with Newcastle’s decision to allow captain Kevin Nolan to join West Ham United during the close-season and his mood wasn’t improved by the recent breakdown of talks over a new contract.
The 28-year-old showed his frustrations with Newcastle owner Mike Ashley and the club’s directors with a series of angry posts on the micro-blogging Web site Twitter.
Writing after Sunday’s 3-2 friendly defeat at Leeds United, Barton claimed another Twitter post by Newcastle teammate Jose Enrique, which led to the Spaniard being fined after he accused the club of lacking ambition, was typical of the unhappy atmosphere among the players.
“If only we as players could tell the fans exactly how it is, without them above fining us lots of money. There will be a time and a place,” Barton said. “If it wouldn’t effect team morale and cause unrest within the dressing room, [I] am certain Jose’s comments would be the tip of the iceberg and again it would be left to those magnificent fans to pick up the remnants of their once great football club.”
He then claimed he would make an announcement about his future on Twitter at 3pm on Monday, but Newcastle pre-empted that move by announcing Barton would be placed on the transfer list and allowed to leave for free a year before the end of his contract.
“Newcastle United can confirm that Joey Barton has been placed on the transfer list,” a statement on the club’s Web site read. “The player has been advised he can leave the club on a free transfer.”
Barton responded to the news by claiming he had been forced out by the club’s hierarchy.
“Somewhere in those high echelons of NUFC, they have decided I am persona non grata,” he wrote. “I am on a free, but the honour of wearing [Newcastle’s] black and white stripes surpasses that. One day the board might realize what the shirt signifies. Honour and pride. Thanks for your continued support.”
Manchester United and Arsenal have both been linked with moves for Barton and there is likely to be a scramble for the 28-year-old’s services involving a host of top-flight teams, despite his often-controversial actions.
Barton has never been far from the spotlight at Newcastle following his ￡5.8 million (US$9.4 million) move from Manchester City in June 2007.
Shortly after his transfer, he served a 77-day prison sentence after being found guilty of assault.
Barton was also given a suspended four-month sentence for a training ground assault on then City teammate Ousmane Dabo, which earned him a six-match ban upon his release from jail.
He was briefly suspended by the club after a clash with interim manager Alan Shearer when Newcastle were relegated in 2009, but resolved his differences and helped the Magpies win promotion from the Championship under Chris Hughton.