JOEY BARTON was the subject of firm interest from Wigan Athletic last night.
And in a week which has been dominated by talk of Joey-gate, the saga went from the sublime to the ridiculous as League One minnows Rochdale also spoke of a cheeky bid for the one time England international’s services.
But sources on Merseyside have indicated that Everton – the only club not to sign a player on a permanent deal this summer – cannot match Barton’s wages at United.
However, the serious interest came from Wigan supremo Dave Whelan, who has admitted he was prepared to sanction a move for the out of favour midfielder – if his manager Roberto Martinez wanted to take him.
Barton has been training with Newcastle United’s development squad but will not be involved in today’s final friendly of pre-season against Fiorentina.
The Scouser was also not handed the chance to play in the reserves’ friendly at Ashington last night, won 2-1 thanks to goals from Brad Inman and Phil Airey, and remains on the transfer list and available for a free transfer leaving his future in the air.
Barton’s agent Willie McKay has a good relationships with North West clubs, including
Wigan, and Whelan said last night: “I would say ‘Roberto, I’m backing you’. He’s the boss and I let him be the boss. If Roberto would like to sign Barton, I’d try to get him.”
Whelan went on to talk his admiration for the United rebel, saying: “When you watch Joey play, he’s a good player, make no mistake about that.
“I’ve never met the lad but people have told me that he’s a bit difficult to handle, he’s a bit hot-headed.”
Whelan did though echo the thoughts of Alan Pardew about Twitter and said: “I think a football club should keep itself to itself, especially with the players and the staff.
“I just think Joey should calm down, play football, because he’s a very, very good player, and my advice would be to be quiet, say nothing, and go on the field and do your stuff.”
Interest from Spotland came from Barton’s ex-Manchester City coaching mentors Steve Eyre and ex-Toon youth coach Frankie Bunn – now in charge at Rochdale.
Eyre said: “Joey got in touch with us this week to wish us well for Saturday and ask if we were both okay.
“Obviously we asked him the same question given the events of the last few days and told him if he ever wants to come and train with our squad he would be welcome.
“Joey was never anything but good as gold for me and Frank. Other people have their opinion of him and they are entitled to it, but if he ever wanted to come and work with me and Frank again to keep himself in shape, he’d be welcome.”
Meanwhile, the Magpies are understood to be hopeful of completing the signing of Manchester United winger Gabriel Obertan early next week, while youngster Michael Richardson has joined League One outfit Leyton Orient and could make his debut at Walsall today.