Joey Barton is a largely repulsive individual, who manages to offend somebody or so something nasty every time he’s offered redemption.
The 34-year-old midfielder is now at Rangers, but there was a time 12 years ago when he almost signed for Liverpool, when Gerard Houllier was in charge.
In fact, Barton actually came to Melwood to visit the Frenchman, but Liverpool sacked Houllier in summer 2004 and appointed Rafa Benitez instead.
Barton says in his new book, serialised by the Echo, that he was furious at the dream transfer breaking down – especially when Benitez chose to recruit Xabi Alonso from Spain instead in central midfield.
As a result, five years later in 2009, Barton scythed Alonso down with a horrific two-footed challenge that saw the then Newcastle midfielder red-carded and Xabi off on a stretcher. According to the book, it was premeditated and because of his anger at Liverpool never signing him. He even goes as far to say he could have had a successful midfield partnership with Steven Gerrard for club and country…
“Xabi and I had history. He blamed me for knocking him out in what he thought was a deliberate clash of heads in one of our earliest contests, and I blamed him for stealing my move to Liverpool,” Barton said.
“All that remained to be agreed with City was the fee, when Rafa Benitez took over from Gerard Houllier. I was in Dubai when I was informed that he had instead decided to sign a kid from Real Sociedad who had just broken into the Spanish national team.
“That turned out to be £10.7m well spent. Xabi is one hell of a player, whose passes have a great range and accuracy.
“Whenever we played, I sought to get the game on my terms, which were relentlessly physical.
“(In 2009) Thirteen minutes remained. Liverpool were two up, cruising and playing keep ball. The Kop conducted an incessant, infuriating chant of ‘Ole, ole, ole!’
“Xabi retained the ball near the corner flag fractionally longer than was prudent. That gave me the opportunity to fly in, and disguise my malicious intent as best as I could. Alonso milked the moment with a barrel roll. I expected a yellow and was shown a red.”
That’s despicable, and eerily similar to Roy Keane’s tale regarding Alf-Inge Haland. Thankfully, Alonso went on to prove himself as one of Europe’s greatest midfielders, while Barton has become a figure to poke fun at – in terms of his attitude and ability.