Love him or hate him it seems that Joey Barton is mentally incapable of keeping his mouth shut. Regardless of apparent happiness at a club the English midfielder just can’t resist the urge to open his mouth. The temptation to speak, for him, is the equivalent of a young child pressing a metaphorical red button when repeatedly instructed not to go anywhere near it.
Barton boasts a fine tradition of tarnishing his reputation at every club that he has played for, by making stupid critical comments. His latest vocal misdemeanour is aimed at the players born in the country that pay his wages, basically by labelling them all as work shy. "In France, when you work hard, it's taken as meaning you have no talent. They don't believe in work, in making an effort" he said. "I don't understand that. The number of discussions I've had on the subject! French players don't like working. They don't like getting themselves dirty.
"If you push yourself in training, for them it means you don't have any talent. But if you have talent and you also work really hard, you get even better, don't you? Anyway, I don't have any talent, so I have to work."
Up until his rather thoughtless interview with L’equipe on Thursday the ex Newcastle and ManCity midfielder had become a fans favourite at the Stade Velodrome. Barton has scored 1 goal in 14 appearances so far but, ironically it has been his typically combative style of play that has won the hearts of the Marseille faithful.
On Sunday Barton comes face to face with Beckham, when the former England captain makes his debut for PSG. Barton has already had a pop at Beckham by claiming that Marseille will have nothing to fear from him. The French media too has been playing their part by terming the match as one of biblical proportions. On the cover of ‘France Football’ magazine there appears a picture of Barton sporting horns and Beckham sprouting wings, underneath the heading ‘ANGE ET DEMON’ (Angel and Demon.)
At risk of giving the impression that Barton is completely and verbally idiotic there may actually be method to his latest mad comments. That being motivational mind games based on a further cultural observation that the Scouser has made during his time in France. "I get the impression that they have to be angry to really push themselves. It's the same with the national teams: rugby, football. If you tell them, 'You're rubbish, you're a bunch of losers' they'll play really well," he added. "If you tell them, 'You're brilliant', they're going to stop working. So I suppose you have to try and annoy them."
Annoying people is what Joey Barton does best, it remains to be seen what consequences his most recent outburst will have? One thing you can be sure of is that when Beckham has the ball on Sunday you can expect Barton to be flying across, desperate to put in a rough challenge on his compatriot.
image: © michael kjaer