There are times when you know what you are reading or hearing is the work of fiction but there are some stories that really make you wonder and even turn into reality. If you’d told me a few weeks ago that Joey Barton would probably be moving to Marseille from QPR I would have laughed at you. The controversial midfielder who is banned for 12 matches at the start of this new Premier League season is hardly the type of character you can say you’d imagine wanting to challenge himself in another culture, but the same was said of Joe Cole and despite his time at Lille being a failure on the pitch, off it the Liverpool man regards it as a success.
The same looks like it will be happening with Barton but instead of joining an established, title-chasing side like Lille, he will be linking up with a Marseille team that have seen better days. Although the deal is not complete yet, the 29-year old looks set to embark on a semi-exile of sorts after parent club Queen’s Park Rangers have attempted to rid themselves of the bad boy and he could be in France by the end of the week. A mooted swap deal with l’OM’s Stephane Mbia going the other way, it is unclear yet whether that deal will actually happen or whether the clubs are just discussing Barton, but all the talk in France already is of how the midfielder will adapt to life off the pitch.
A largely unfashionable if traditional club that has often been home to disrupted and unwanted talents, the Merseysider could thrive in Provence.
Willie McKay, Barton’s agent, even told RMC Sport radio on Wednesday that his client wants to move to France:
“Joey wants to play for Marseille this season. We are in negotiations but nothing is done for now. I can not make more comments on the content of the negotiations and my respect for Jose Anigo and Vincent Labrune.”
On paper, Barton and Marseille appear well-matched. A troubled, if talented player joining a club renowned for its crushing pressure due to an illustrious history and more importantly, sky-high fan expectations. Seen as the poorer relation in the Paris Saint-Germain-Marseille rivalry even before the arrival of the capital club’s petrodollars, the club are now even further removed from their affluent rivals. But this is where Barton fits, a largely unfashionable if traditional club that has often been home to disrupted and unwanted talents, the Merseysider could thrive in Provence.
Outside of tactical matters, Barton’s strong personality could be beneficial in the dressing room.
Another thing that adds spice to Barton’s potential arrival in France would be his claims before the turn of the year to be a PSG “fan.” Last November in an interview with Canal+, the former Manchester City man claimed that he was a PSG supporter from his childhood thanks to his hatred of Liverpool and les-Rouges-et-Bleu’s European clashes with the Anfield giants.
“When I was younger, I supported Everton and every time PSG played Liverpool in the European Cup, I wanted them to win,” Barton said.
“However, I still have a lot of work to do here. But who knows what the future holds for me?”
Whether it was Barton being an opportunist and sensing a chance to talk himself into a move to a bigger club with a more comfortable salary so soon after his move to QPR, who knows. But PSG fans certainly welcomed the acknowledgement of the club by a player who is considered by many a throwback to English football’s darker days with elements of PSG’s support still eager to associate themselves with the hooligan culture that plagued top-flight British football throughout the 1980′s.
Celebrate the hardcore PSG fans may have, but how will they react now when Barton visits the Parc des Princes with his new side and they feel that one of “their own” is lining up for the enemy? Some food for thought even if the move may be far off for the moment. If it does go through though, it will certainly be enthralling to follow his progress.
They need a general, someone who can boost them or who is able to calm them down if they think they are getting too big headed.
What will Marseille fans make of it then? Speaking to Jessy Caiado of La Madjer and Chelsea.fr he gave his thoughts on the potential deal from a fan’s perspective:
“Even though the move has not been confirmed, as a Marseille fan I am already looking forward to seeing him play alongside Benoit Cheyrou as they both have a similar style of play: strong on his man with good tackling and passing skills. This would mean Elie Baup’s side could use a duet of holding/central midfielders without suffering much from Alou Diarra and Stéphane Mbia’s departures.”
“Outside of tactical matters, Barton’s strong personality could be beneficial in the dressing room. In fact, since Gabriel Heinze left Marseille, the squad seems to have been left without a true natural leader. They need a general, someone who can boost them or who is able to calm them down if they think they are getting too big headed.”
“In my opinion, the current situation within the club is this: Élie Baup is the shepherd, the squad are the sheep but there is no dog to help the lost ones rejoin the flock. Joey Barton is that guy.”
Thanks to Jessy Caiado for his thoughts on Joey Barton- @JeKayado
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