The turbulent career of Joey Barton is at another crossroads this morning, with the outspoken midfielder searching for a new club after being told by Newcastle he can leave on a free transfer.
The St James’ Park hierarchy made the decision yesterday, after another prolonged Twitter outburst from the 28-year-old.
Barton has made a number of comments over recent months that hint at behind-the-scenes unrest at the club, and went on another lengthy tirade following a friendly defeat to Leeds on Sunday.
That appears to have been the final straw for owner Mike Ashley, who has taken decisive action, despite the player holding a contract that runs until next summer.
In a brief statement, the club said: “Newcastle United can confirm that Joey Barton has been placed on the transfer list.
“The player has been advised that he can leave the club on a free transfer.”
Barton, who had promised a statement of his own on his future at 4pm, was beaten to the punch by his employers, but replied by tweeting: “Somewhere in those high echelons of NUFC, they have decided, I am persona non grata.
“I am on a free but the honour of wearing those B+W stripes, surpasses that.
“One day the board might realise, what the shirt signifies. HONOUR and PRIDE. Thanks for your continued support........... #toonarmy.”
His agent, Willie McKay, called Newcastle’s decision “suicidal” and claimed he would have no problems in finding his client a new club.
Speaking to talkSPORT, he said: “I think it’s a wee bit suicidal by Newcastle because how would you let your player of the year leave on a free transfer, approaching his prime?
“There will be a lot of takers. Joey would hope to go to a top club and in actual fact a couple of top clubs have been in contact already.
“There won’t be a problem finding Joey a home.”
The root of Barton’s unrest can be traced back to the sale of Andy Carroll to Liverpool in January.
It was thought that the one-cap England midfielder was considering signing a new deal at the time, but decided to put his future on hold until the summer after that.
Then, in May, McKay said Barton would not be offered a new deal, with the player later tweeting that Newcastle wanted a “younger, better, cheaper player”.
His discontent was not aided by the sale of close friend and club captain Kevin Nolan to West Ham, and following the Leeds game he took another swipe at club officials.
In the aftermath of full-back Jose Enrique being fined for questioning the club’s ambition, he said: “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.
“If it wouldn’t effect (sic) team morale and cause unrest within the dressing room, 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. #hadenoughofcertainpeople.
“If I wanted to leave, I’d just come out and say I want to leave. Things need addressing as am not prepared to go through a relegation again.”
An acrimonious departure now appears likely, but Barton, who has served a prison term, a club suspension and other bans during his four-year stay with the Magpies, is set to leave as a hero, at least with the fans, having so often been the villain.