Barton insists he is staying put but Everton lie in wait

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The Independent Football

Joey Barton has insisted he will not quit Manchester City during the transfer window as Everton's determination to trigger a release clause in his contract provoked an unequivocal rejection from their primary transfer target last night.

David Moyes, the Everton manager, took the uncharacteristic step yesterday of confirming he had enquired about the 24-year-old and had been informed that City had no intention of parting with a key asset who signed a four-year contract only last summer.

Yet despite City's stance Everton remain keen to test the player's resolve with a £35,000-a-week offer to return to his native Merseyside and were encouraged when the midfielder's agent, Willie McKay, confirmed Barton's contract contains a clause that allows him to speak to any club that offers £5.5m.

"If a club makes a bid of £5.5m, Joey can speak to anyone if he so wishes. There is a clause in his contract that he can leave for that sum," said McKay, who claimed City could be powerless to prevent Barton leaving once such a bid arrives. He explained: "Joey should be made aware of the offer and asked if he wants to speak to them. The clause in Joey Barton's contract is a Joey Barton clause, not a Manchester City clause and it is a clause they were happy to put in. He is not desperate to leave City but there is a clause that can be activated if he so wishes."

That encouraged Everton to believe they could exploit the loophole once their transfer budget has been increased by Simon Davies' anticipated £2.75m move to Fulham.

However, Barton, speaking after the FA Cup third-round replay victory over Sheffield Wednesday, made his position clear last night with implicit criticism of his own agent. The City midfielder stated: "I've said on the record that I'm happy here and I'm happy to stay at this football club. People are trying to unsettle me but I'm happy to stay here and proud to play for this club. I have a manager who believes in me and I'm playing good football for a good team. I don't want to leave."

Barton's manager, Stuart Pearce, insisted that the statement was a sign of the 24-year-old's new-found maturity and an indication that he was responsible for the direction of his career. "I'm not sure if Willie McKay is his agent," he said. "Joey is frustrated and irritated by the situation. He realises that this time last year he was playing good football but took his eye off the ball during the contract negotiations and had a bad second half to the season. Now he wants to get his head down, with a manager who holds him in high esteem, and credit to him."

Pearce added: "When I was a player I directed my agent where I wanted to go and had him work for me. Now Joey Barton is doing the same and I'm pleased to hear what he said tonight because I would rather hear that from a player than an agent. My advice to anyone who is happy with their football is to stay where you are. That is why I stayed at Nottingham Forest."