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Bad boy in search of redemption / One day, one transfer / Episode 39 /

This summer during the transfer window, So Foot returns every day of the week to a transfer that marked its time in its own way. For this 39th episode, close-up on the passage of Joey Barton and his big character in Marseille. Eager to restore his image, the English stayed only one season on the Canebière. He did not need more to put the Marseille public in his pocket and pay himself, one evening of PSG-OM, the head of Zlatan Ibrahimović.

In August 2012, Twitter was not yet the great stress relief it has since become. Nor is it the preferred social network for players to communicate. It is despite everything there, on the platform with the blue bird, that Joey Barton is particularly noticed. Between jokes and philosophical reflections, the English community then carried out a major seduction operation. His target: Olympique de Marseille. “It’s only in Marseille that I want to play” , “My heart is already at the Velodrome” , “Marseille won again. Go Marseilles. Maybe I’ll see you all this week” … We are closer to the somewhat clumsy flirt than to the subtle call of the foot. It must be said that the end of the transfer window is approaching, and that the almost thirty-something logically asks himself some questions about his future. Facing Manchester City, at the end of the previous season, he nudged Carlos Tévez before attacking Sergio Agüero, receiving… twelve games of suspension. His club, Queens Park Rangers, sidelined him and even stripped him of his shirt number. In the middle, his reputation precedes him. Expulsions caused by bad gestures or murderous tackles, fights, alcoholism, going through the prison box, not to mention the violent beating of his teammate Ousmane Dabo, who came out disfigured… In short, nothing very engaging, but this does not prevent OM from taking the gamble.

“I was often stupid, I have to repair the damage. » Joey Barton

“OM did not recruit a saint”

During the off-season, the Marseille club directs a large part of its sales to England. César Azpilicueta joins Chelsea, Alou Diarra goes to West Ham, while Loïc Rémy and Stéphane Mbia sign in favor of QPR, Barton’s formation. When discussing the sale of the Cameroonian, London leaders make it clear to their Marseille counterparts that the native of Huyton, now persona non grata, can be included in the deal. “The opportunity presented itselfremembers Elie Baup, Sky and White coach at the time. We were entering a season of transition, and we needed experience to manage the group. In addition, his salary was not disproportionate. » Shortly before the transfer market closed, the former Magpie disembarks in the Old Port. A loan that must be synonymous with a new start. “I was often stupid concedes the person concerned during his presentation to the press. I have to repair the damage but, deep down, I’m not mean. In England, they don’t know. I hope that in France, they will judge me fairly. » Vincent Labrune asks only that this quest for absolution be followed by effects. “He came to rebuild his image, to reposition himself as a footballerdetails the Marseille president in the columns of the Parisian. He has a label in England, which he deserves, based on facts. OM have not recruited a saint, but not a cannonball either. He is 30 years old, he is a father, he aspires to redemption, let him have this chance. »

While waiting to discover Ligue 1 – his sanction also being applied in France, he still has nine suspension games to serve – Joey Barton gets to know his new teammates. In his characteristic style. “He was a lodger, he hooked up the other players a lotlaughs Elie Baup. It’s true that there were a few clashes in training, after a rough intervention for example, but it never lasted. Joey didn’t persist for three days. On the contrary, he put a lot of binder, created relationships with his partners. » The coach in the cap praises the positive impact on his group of this “very generous guy, committed, always haranguing his teammates, who was not afraid of anything” . And certainly not Zlatan Ibrahimović. During an eighth final of the Coupe de France at the Parc des Princes, the English international (a selection, in 2007) finds himself on the ground after an aerial duel with the Swedish giant. A lively spat ensued, during which the Phocaean openly mocked the prominence of his opponent’s nose. “PSG had all its superstars and they were very arrogant, I think.recalled the Briton in an interview with The Team. Even with the press, when Zlatan passed in front of the journalists without a word or a look… I said to myself: “OK, I don’t care who you are. You talk badly about everyone in the country, someone has to say no.” I don’t accept contempt from anyone. » Barton may have left the ugly gestures behind him, but he does not restrain his pronounced taste for the trashtalking.

“He always went forward, was very generous in his efforts and that, of course, pleased the Marseille supporters. » Elie Baup

Adopted by the Vél’

With his strong temperament and his constant combativeness, the box-to-box come from across the Channel does not leave the public of the Vélodrome indifferent. “OM’s motto is “To the point”and Joey stuck perfectly to this state of mind, recognizes Baup. He always went forward, was very generous in his efforts and that, of course, pleased the Marseille supporters. A call in depth on the left, another on the right, the defensive withdrawal in stride… He never stopped. Well, sometimes I would have liked him to put his foot on the ball a little more. I took it out quite often from the 80e minute. Not because he was bad, but because he had given his all. » Barton only scored once during his Olympian season, on a surprising direct corner against Borussia Mönchengladbach, in the Europa League (2-2). He is distinguished above all by his great activity, in the midfield, his quality of passing and, inevitably, his commitment to the duel. In 33 games in all competitions, the Manchester City-trained player was only sent off once, after receiving two bookings against Nancy (0-1). Far from being a burden, the repentant Englishman is therefore an important cog in the sky and white collective, which ends the exercise in a very good second place in Ligue 1. “With Steve Mandanda, Benoît Cheyrou, André Ayew, André-Pierre Gignac and him, we had a backbone of leaders. To get results, it really helped us” emphasizes Elie Baup.

The beautiful story only lasts a year, since Barton is not transferred definitively to Marseille at the end of his loan. Wage demands too high, management too hesitant, QPR’s desire to recover its ex-ban? Even today, the reasons that led to this end of the adventure are not clear. “I don’t know what happenedblows the former Marseille coach. Me, I wanted him to continue with us, especially since the Champions League was waiting for us. » Back in the Kingdom, the experienced midfielder puts on the jersey of Hoops, continues at Burnley and has a very brief stint at Glasgow Rangers, where his contract is terminated after a heated altercation with his coach and a teammate. Suspended for eighteen months by the FA for betting on sports, the bad boy retired in 2018 and retrained as a coach. Now on the bench for Bristol Rovers (League One), Joey Barton has often recalled in recent years how attached he remained to OM and their supporters. “He liked this audience, which looked like him. Tells him he wants to come back to coach Marseille one day. Why not ? » , smiles Baup. After all, the bet was successful the first time.

By Raphael Brosse
Comments by Elie Baup collected by RB.


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