5 Reasons Joey Barton Could Be a Big Hit at Marseille
The jail term, the cigar incident, the numerous bookings and bans—we all know the litany of Joey Barton's wrongs.
Then there are the things Joey Barton has undeniably got right—campaigning for Hillsborough justice, slagging off certain smug England players' literary efforts, much of his on-field work at Manchester City, Newcastle and QPR.
There is little doubt Barton's less savoury characteristics have hampered his football career. One England cap in a decade of generally high-quality Premier League football certainly raises questions.
And on the domestic front, his club career has been directed largely by personality clashes and the challenges of managing a player so constantly embroiled in difficulties, whether with the law, the FA, teammates or the press.
It is this dichotomy that makes Barton what the Guardian's Paul Wilson described as "the epitome of a moneyball signing." Barton is certainly a player who tends to be undervalued in terms of quality due to external factors.
And that is exactly the kind of player who not only can provide the right club with indispensable value, but will thrive under the right circumstances.
Here are five reasons why Joey Barton could be a huge hit at Olympique Marseille.
Marseille Love a Maverick
From former player Eric Cantona to club hero Basile Boli (renowned for this headbutt on Barton's old Man City boss Stuart Pearce) to disgraced ex-owner Bernard Tapie, Marseille's history has a cast of characters as colourful as its seaport.
Indeed, the city of Marseille itself has a certain rakish flavour, straddling the line between charming and disreputable.
Joey Barton should fit right in.
OM take pride in having the most passionate fans in France.
Fans who can muster away support like this deserve players who give the proverbial 100 percent on the pitch. For all Joey Barton's faults, his passion for and commitment to the game have never been in doubt.
The English Connection
As an English import to Marseille, Joey Barton has a tremendous predecessor—Chris Waddle.
Beloved for his exuberant flair during the club's most successful period, Waddle was voted the second-best OM player of the 20th century.
Being a compatriot of such a club legend should buy Barton a certain amount of goodwill—something he can always do with in case of the odd indiscretion.
British players famously tend not to travel well. For every notable success—Waddle, Gary Lineker, David Beckham—there are at least as many abortive disasters.
Paradoxically for a man who can sometimes represent the worst boorishness of Britain, there is every indication that Joey Barton has what it takes for a successful foreign career.
His natural intelligence and curiosity will help him adapt quickly, as one of his transfer deadline day Tweets suggests:
Hopefully, once the ink is dry. I can immerse myself in the culture, learn the language and just play football. That is my dream...
The experience of broadening his horizons both in football and cultural terms will benefit Barton both on and off the pitch.
And Then There's the Football
Purely in footballing terms, a move to OM might have surprising effects on Barton's game.
Partly because of his off-field persona and partly, to be fair, because of incidents like his disgraceful lashing out in QPR's end of season match last year, Barton is often perceived as a one-dimensional player best described as "combative."
Yet there is much more to his game than tackling, harrying and provoking. His passing, crossing and dead-ball delivery are all excellent.
Given the slower pace of Ligue 1, Barton will find himself with more space and time than usually is afforded in the Premier League. This will allow him to develop the creative side of his game in ways that should delight Marseille fans—and maybe even his doubters back home.