LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 15: Joey Barton (front) of Newcastle United is fouled by Frank Lampard of Chelsea during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Newcastle United at Stamford Bridge on May 15, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Joey Barton has been transfer listed by Newcastle United on Monday in a bizarre twist to the on-going feud between player and club. Barton, whose contract expires next summer, has been involved in a very public and contentious contract negotiation with the Newcastle board and has made no secret of his contempt for the process, often lashing out at the club on Twitter or through his agent.
Barton recently launched into another tirade* and today the club responded with a simple statement:
Newcastle United can confirm that Joey Barton has been placed on the transfer list today (Monday). The player has been advised that he can leave the club on a free transfer.
[via NUFC Official Site]
*The story has become so redundant that last night I saw the headline "Barton Launches Angry Twitter Rant" and had to check the date to see if it was a reprint.
The rant itself that started this whole mess was pretty generic, echoing the sentiments of Jose Enrique Sanchez (still under team control, but for how long?) and Kevin Nolan (gone to West Ham United) that something sinister is truly going on behind the scenes - something so bad that Barton can't even tell you because the truth would shock you. I know it sounds like I'm being cynical, but players who want a payday will say almost anything, won't they? It's entirely possible that Mike Ashley and Derek Llambias are the proverbial Mr. Burns and Smithers of Newcastle United (respectively), hatching devious plans to keep the working man down, but it's infinitely more likely that they're taking a hard negotiating stance and refusing to budge on it, leading certain players to whine to a fanbase that they know is already suspicious of the front office.
That doesn't excuse the ridiculously eccentric move of letting Barton leave on a free, however. Even if Ashley and company have grown tired of being publicly dragged through the mud by Barton and others (and it sure seems like he's paying for the sins of others as well as himself, doesn't it?), it makes no sense to let a player walk when he clearly has value on the open market (not to mention tangible on-the-pitch value to his current team). It's possible that there's something going on behind the scenes we don't know about, like Barton demanding that he be emancipated from his contract, a possibility given his latest cryptic tweet.
The bottom line, though, is that it appears that Newcastle will be letting a quality player go and receiving nothing in return, which is inexcusable if there are viable alternatives. I actually hope that there is something we don't know about this story, because on the surface it looks like Mike Ashley got his feelings hurt and wanted to make an example of Mr. Barton.