Players

Not everyone is convinced by the crocodile tears and PR onslaught of a controversial midfielder's transfer saga, Mark Brophy among them.

Joey Barton's departure from Newcastle United a few days before the end of August was the end to a long, tortuous tale. The club claim he drew away from negotiations on a new contract shortly after the sale of Andy Carroll without replacement in January, followed by the withdrawal of their contract offer, and ever since it has seemed likely that Barton would leave. Despite other influential players also leaving in that period, Barton's public pronouncements through the summer have guided the story rather than the series of transfers.

In terms of events the narrative is a straightforward one. A player concerned about the direction their club is taking, and seeking a new and improved contract with a year to go on the old one, doesn't receive an offer meeting his expectations. As the summer draws on the player engineers a bust-up with club staff and is informed he can leave immediately on a free. Just before the end of the transfer window another club makes an offer which he accepts.

What is different here from, say, Samir Nasri's move from Arsenal to Manchester City is Barton's use of social media to communicate directly with fans. Whereas Nasri criticised Arsenal supporters both before and after his move was complete, Barton tweeted his version of events always in a way guaranteed to appeal to Newcastle fans. The bust-up itself partially took place on Twitter, Barton repeatedly criticising the way the club was run, though he was careful to restrict his criticism to the club hierarchy.

He claimed he would only leave for football reasons to a Champions League club, his frustration at the club's transfer dealings being a factor. He then claimed he wanted to stay but was continuing to wait for a contract offer from the club. Even at the 11th hour, having spoken to QPR, his eventual destination, he communicated his need for time and space to think, the inference being that he was torn by the possibility of leaving a club for which he felt a genuine affinity.

The saga as viewed through the Barton prism fed into widespread supporter disquiet at the running of the club. He portrayed himself as a victim, being forced out by a club wishing to rid itself of a high-earning player who no longer fitted their preferred profile. There's a certain amount of truth to this in the sense that if the club felt he was worth it they would have offered him more. A display of reluctance to leave even when offered more money again played to the wish of the fans to believe that the player feels the same as they do.

Many fans took his tweets at face value, which gained him considerable support in the stand-off. That might not have been true had he attempted to put his case via more traditional media, being filtered by the view of the reporter in question. If Barton's primary purpose was to highlight the club selling last season's best performers without adequate replacement, then it is ironic that his actions had the opposite effect, in diverting focus from worries about the club overall onto endless discussion of himself.

The Twitter rant that provoked his transfer listing did not precipitate a change in modus operandi at the club but instead created an opportunity to gain a lucrative transfer for himself. The Champions League suitors happily confirmed initially by his agent failed to materialise. He leaves to a club with a no more impressive list of summer transfers than Newcastle, though with better communication of their ambitious vision for the future following a very recent takeover.

With a year left on his contract he had no need to go anywhere immediately and, whatever reluctance to leave he may have felt, leave he eventually did. So this cannot in truth be portrayed as a move for footballing betterment, with neither club likely to trouble trophy engravers any time soon. If leaving by choice, as seems to be the case, the improved contract must have helped concentrate Barton's mind. Now the transfer has gone through, it is his protestations of loyalty which most jar, a 21st century equivalent of badge-kissing.

Why then did Barton bother with a PR exercise in self-justification aimed at fans of a club he was agitating to leave, if that is what he was doing? Cod psychology might suggest Barton's overriding need to be loved, but he could more reasonably have been driven by a wish to maintain the possibility that the interest of other clubs would persuade Newcastle to offer the contract he desired. If Barton's time at Newcastle is to have a legacy, it may be that players become aware of an easy method of hedging their bets publicly while pushing for a lucrative move behind the scenes. 

From WSC 296 October 2011

Ian Farrell bids a grateful but unemotional farewell to Carlos Tevez as he looks for another move

If you filter out any stories containing the words "romp" or "affray" and only count the football-related, few Premier League players have generated as much news over the last five years as Carlos Tévez. Not that there haven't been sleazier revelations along the way, but it's at work that he is truly a leading headline-maker, with the success and salvation his goals have delivered accounting for only a fraction of the coverage.

Dermot Corrigan tells of how a player more used to scoring in Drogheda and Derry made his full international debut in Tripoli

On the first weekend in June, most Irish football eyes were fixed on Macedonia, where the Republic of Ireland won 2-0 in a Euro 2012 qualifier. One head though – that of Dublin-born Eamon Zayed – was more interested in Group C of the African Cup of Nations qualifiers, where his Libyan team drew 1-1 away to the Comoros Islands to remain in the hunt for a place at next year’s finals.

Owen Amos explains how two brothers dealt with rejection in England – by becoming footballing celebrities in the Philippines

While Chelsea wait for Josh McEachran to establish himself (or be sold to Fulham), two of their other youth team graduates are doing rather well. James and Phil Younghusband, brothers from Middlesex, were released by Chelsea in 2006 and 2008 respectively. Now, they’ve got 50 caps between them, a string of sponsorship deals and – most importantly of all – 200,000 followers on Twitter. The Younghusbands have made it; they’ve just made it 7,000 miles away, in the Philippines.

Dong Fangzhuo became an Asian sensation when he joined Manchester United from Chinese side Dalian Shide in 2004. Jonathan Fadugba explores the striker's drastic decline from Europe's top stage

Just days after wrestling the title away from defending champions Chelsea, Manchester United travelled to Stamford Bridge for a League fixture on May 9, 2007. All the pre-match talk was of a guard of honour. Would José Mourinho be magnanimous enough in defeat to indulge the newly crowned Champions? He was – but Alex Ferguson sent out a reserve team. What followed was an almost farcical scene as John Terry and co lined up to salute the likes of Chris Eagles, Kieran Richardson and Kieran Lee.

After losing Fernando Torres to Chelsea, Liverpool supporter Rob Hughes explains why player disloyalty is not a new phenomenom

The media circus that trailed Fernando Torres's move to Chelsea once again raised what is fast becoming a dominant issue in today's game: club loyalty. Liverpool fans' dismay was complete when, at his first press conference at Stamford Bridge, their departed idol coolly batted away accusations of traitordom and justified his switch of allegiance by declaring that "romance in football has gone". Yes, he said, he'd had three good seasons at Liverpool but he wanted to play for a team who actually won things. What's more, he was never a Reds fan (though, in his defence, he was candid enough to admit he's no Chelsea nut either). Club loyalty counted for nothing when it came to winning trophies.

Paul Knott pays tribute to a player who came to symbolise a club, remaining instrumental through an era of unprecendented success

Nine seasons after joining Hull City from Cambridge Utd for exactly one-thousandth of the fee paid by Liverpool for Andy Carroll, Ian Ashbee moved on a free to Preston on January transfer deadline day. During this time he achieved the unique feat of captaining the same club in all four divisions, including the top one for the first time in Hull City's history.

Gordon Cairns reports on a player who made transfer law history, but who now finds himself back where it all started

The career of Andy Webster to date could read as a morality tale for the modern footballer. As this year's winter transfer window closed, the centre-half was quietly released by Rangers and rejoined Hearts, a reunion which only a month previously seemed as plausible as Paul McCartney welcoming Heather Mills back with open arms. It wasn't that Webster had left Hearts that had made him persona non grata at Tynecastle, it was the manner of his going. He was the first player to invoke clause 17 of FIFA's transfer regulations which states that a player can buy himself out of a contract three years after the deal was signed, leaving Hearts with 
no transfer fee.

At 37, Kevin Muscat's playing career could be over following his latest reckless challenge. Graham Willgoss examines the Australia international's controversial reputation

Is Kevin Muscat mad, bad or misunderstood? The controversial former Crystal Palace, Wolves and Millwall defender dived two-footed into the latest – and possibly the last – media storm of his playing career after committing a horror challenge. Muscat's latest misdemeanour came while playing for his current club Melbourne Victory in Australia's A-League. In the closing minutes of a frenetic 2-2 draw with city rivals Melbourne Heart, Muscat launched himself at Heart winger Adrian Zahra with a studs-up scissor-kick that connected with his opponent somewhere around the knee.

The Beckham to Spurs saga was covered in huge detail this winter. But, as Georgina Turner argues, it's not all the player's fault

I manage to pour my breakfast cereal each morning without a plastic model of a member of the Beckham family dropping uninvited into my bowl. I've never found one of them sitting outside my building, holding a piece of cardboard upon which is scrawled "Will dance a jig for attention". I've yet to have a particularly tense episode of Spooks interrupted by a pirate broadcast from Beckingham Palace in which David, sporting oversized trousers and shoes, invites Victoria to smell a flower. Which has me confused, because Cirque du Beckham was supposed to be taking over the world. It said so in the papers.

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