Joey Barton's move to Olympique Marseilles was last night described as "strange" by Chris Waddle, the ex-England winger who is still revered at the Stade Velodrome after his own spell in the south of France.
Barton is set to make his home debut for the Ligue 1 leaders tonight against AEL Limassol, of Cyprus, in the Europa League. The on-loan QPR midfielder is suspended from domestic competition following the 12-match ban he received from the Football Association following his dismissal at Manchester City last season. The ban does not apply to European competition and Barton has made one appearance since crossing the Channel at the end of August, away to Fenerbahce.
Waddle, who won three titles in as many years for Marseilles, fears the club's fans will be in for a disappointment. He said: "I can't understand the connection, why they've looked at him. Unless someone's built him up into being Zinedine Zidane, I don't know how he got that move.
"He'll do well to get in the team. Normally when you strengthen your team you bring in a player who's different from what you have but Marseilles have got a lot of players like Joey. If they think he's going to make a difference by dribbling or scoring goals or making goals… I don't think they'll see that. They'll see a player who passes it and plays simple football, and Marseilles fans, who like clever players, will wonder what the reason for signing him was. I think it is a strange move for both parties."
Waddle, who now works as a pundit for ESPN, added: "So far he's played 70 minutes against Fenerbahce. They were losing 2-0, they took him off and drew 2-2. He'll do well to play football and if he's not playing, will Joey be happy? We'll probably find out on Twitter. It's a fantastic club with fanatical support – if he upsets the supporters he might as well leave town. I wouldn't bet against him upsetting the supporters, but if he plays well, they'll take to him."
Barton has said he hopes to put his misadventures in England behind him. He told OM's website: "I hope that people in France, and here in Marseilles, judge me on what I do here and not in relation to what they read. It's difficult because of my bad reputation. I find it a bit unfair. They are stories like Hollywood, far from the truth."
Barton, 30, added: "It will not be easy for me to make the side. There are some very good players here, but when you want to be a big club you must have a team of 15, 16 or 17 players. All players cannot play every week and I hope to bring something different to the team and become an important member."
ESPN will exclusively broadcast Marseilles v Paris St Germain on Sunday at 10.30pm. Visit espn.co.uk/tv for details