Eric Cantona ended his career in England as a legend. Yes a controversial figure, and his kung-fu kick is a memory as abiding as anything he did on the pitch, but nobody could deny the talent he had with the ball at his feet.
He led Manchester United to four league titles, and one with Leeds, and the Selhurst Park incident and a few red cards aside, his career will go down in history, in England at least, as a success.
When he made the trip across the Channel, it was not because he loved the English game, that attitude would come later, it was because his paths in France had become blocked, after a string of high profile incidents which saw him even briefly retire from football.
At his very first club, Auxerre he punched his own teammate in the face, which landed him a heavy fine. He then landed a three-month ban for a dangerous tackle on an opposition player.
He was soon sold to Marseille, where he famously called the French coach Henri Michel a 'bag of shit'. Almost 25 year later Michel remains in international management and is currently the Kenyan national team coach.
After an incident in a charity match in which he threw his shirt at his manager he was promptly sold to Montpellier, but he simply lurched from one incident to another, kicking a boot which injured a teammate in the head in the dressing room (remind you of anyone?) resulting in a two game ban.
By 1991 he was playing for Nimes, when he lost it again and threw a ball at a referee's head. He later attacked an opponent in the dressing room after the match, in which he was of course sent off, not that he waited around to find out, walking off straight after throwing the ball at the official.
He was suspended for two months by the French Football Federation, and in protest elected never to play again. He was talked around by those close to him, but elected the only way he could truly move on was switching to England.
It was over here his career truly took off, the red mist still descended every now and then, and as we all know he still had the capacity to snap.
Barton has his own list of misdemeanours, he has achieved one notoriety Cantona never did, he was sent to jail. But the Frenchman may scoff at his 12-game ban as a mere slap on the wrist.
The on loan QPR player does not possess Cantona's talent, and won't be able to rely to the degree Cantona could on a touch of genius to win over the foreign support, but a grown up attitude and a bit of good fortune would not go amiss either.
If QPR have it their way, Barton will become as adored in France as Cantona did in England, and get signed up on a permanent deal. Unwanted in his own country, used up his last-chance saloon, having found someone willing to take him on abroad he must seize the opportunity.
Who knows, we may never see him playing on these shores again? Although two questions remain;
What would Eric Cantona have made of Twitter? And Joey, if you are reading, please don't take this as a license to kung-fu kick anybody. He wouldn't, would he?
image: © lordcolus