JOEY Barton is on the brink of leaving Newcastle United after QPR made him a "massive offer" to end his tempestuous St James' Park career.
Flanked by a delegation from Sky Sports News, Barton travelled to the capital to talk to a bullish Neil Warnock about a four-year deal that is understood to match his current £54,000-a-week contract at Newcastle United.
The midfielder underwent a medical last night, with United boss Alan Pardew already making enquiries about a possible replacement for the midfielder.
Warnock told journalists last Wednesday he was “confident” of convincing Barton to play for QPR, believing that half of the battle was convincing him to listen to his vision for the Loftus Road club – who have just been taken over by Air Asia owner Tony Fernandes. Barton would become the fourth player from United’s Championship-winning side to depart in just nine months, following Andy Carroll, Kevin Nolan and José Enríque.
And with Newcastle still struggling to bring in replacements for Carroll and Enríque, there will be understandable anger among supporters about the way this transfer window has progressed.
United’s negotiations with Erik Pieters remain mothballed until a fee can be agreed with PSV Eindhoven, while The Journal has been told that Mobido Maïga is still on Newcastle’s radar, despite the row between Newcastle and the Mali international’s French club, Sochaux.
Losing another influential lieutenant is a sizeable blow for Pardew, who had voiced his hope and belief that Barton would remain at St James’ Park beyond the end of the transfer window.
The manager brokered an uneasy truce between board and player following the explosive fall-out from the pre-season friendly at Elland Road, but he remained available for transfer despite playing in the first two games of the season.
And The Journal understands that senior sources at St James’ Park believe Barton’s presence has been too distracting at times over the past fortnight.
The midfielder’s advocates would counter by saying he delivered two typically-committed displays in the opening games of the Premier League campaign and there is no doubt Newcastle will miss his energy and influence in the future.
The Journal understands that Newcastle will seek to replace him but, on that front, nothing is imminent. The priority for the week remains recruiting a left-back and striker, with moves for a right midfielder to cover for Barton on the back burner.
Interest in Tranquillo Barnetta, re-ignited after Barton’s first Twitter protest against the board, is unlikely to be revived as he is still recovering from an injury.
That is unlikely to pacify supporters who have already seen sizeable income generated from departing players. United’s current net spend this summer is dwarfed by the money raked in from those sales – not to mention savings made on the wage bill.
One squad addition is imminent, however, with United set to complete the signing of young Lens defender Darnell Situ, who has impressed during a trial.
They are close to negotiating a deal to bring the promising 20-year-old defender to Tyneside in a move The Journal understands will see them pay more than £250,000 up front with various sell-on clauses and incentives.
It is a transfer similar to the one that brought Mehdi Abeid to Newcastle from the same French club, with Situ seen as being part of the development squad but with the potential to break into the first-team set-up as early as this season if he progresses as the club hope.
United’s pursuit of a left-back and striker continues to be a slow-burner but sources close to Aly Cissokho have told The Journal that Friday will be “do or die” for that deal. Lyon’s Champions League fate will go a long way towards deciding his future and, while Holland defender Pieters appears the priority target, United are yet to rule Cissokho out of the mix.
It now appears unlikely that a new face will be on board before Newcastle take on Fulham on Sunday, with derby hero Ryan Taylor again asked to fill in at full-back then and against Scunthorpe in the Carling Cup tonight
Pardew insists he will take tonight’s tie seriously – despite the dual demands it would place on his threadbare squad. Having seen Birmingham lose their Premier League status last season after winning the Carling Cup a few top-flight managers have dismissed the competition, but Pardew is not be one of them.
He said: “I’m trying to see past that, I don’t think the two things went hand in hand – I’m pretty sure there were other factors. But you have to look at our squad and say we are definitely better equipped to attack the two cup competitions.
“I was four or five minutes away from winning the FA Cup final with West Ham, and that team wasn’t as good as the team I have here. So it’s possible, although you need luck too.”
Pardew is contemplating changes for the trip to Scunthorpe, with Dan Gosling in line to move into midfield with Sylvain Marveaux also being considered for a debut. Steve Harper and Alan Smith are others in the frame for first starts in East Yorkshire.
“I’m going to take a balanced view of the cup,” Pardew said. “On one side, I don’t want to lose any of the momentum that we’ve gained. But secondly, there are certain players that I have to play because they deserve to get a game.
“They need to be up to speed because I could lose someone during training on Saturday morning, and suddenly they’ll have to be ready to go into the team and play.
“People underestimate the level you have to be at in the Premier League. If you’ve been sat on the bench without a game for four or five matches, you’re going to struggle. So it’s a case of balancing the two scenarios.”