Newcastle face difficult decision over Barton future

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The Independent Football

Newcastle United face an ethical and financial dilemma after their midfielder Joey Barton yesterday received a suspended sentence having admitted his guilt on Monday over the assault of his former team-mate Ousmane Dabo.

Newcastle are entitled to dismiss Barton but that would entail writing off around £3m to £4m, conceivably the most Barton would be worth on the transfer market after a volatile 12 months on Tyneside. Against that, Barton earns approximately £3m a year and has four years left on the contract he signed after joining from Manchester City for £5.8m last summer. By sacking him Newcastle would be relieving themselves of £12m in player wages.

Newcastle would also be seen to be doing "the right thing", though again there is a counter-argument that rehabilitation is what the controversial 25-year-old needs. If that were to occur successfully, Newcastle would once again have a saleable asset on their hands and might recoup some of the transfer fee paid, but that is a diminishing return.

The club, the player and agent Willie McKay will soon enter discussions to determine Barton's future. A club statement read: "We note the sentence passed to Joey Barton at Manchester's Minshull Street Crown Court. The club now intend to hold discussions with Joey and his representatives at the earliest possible opportunity. Until such time that this meeting has taken place, there will be no further comment from the club."

Newcastle will also be aware that Dabo could yet launch civil proceedings against Barton bringing further unwanted publicity to St James' Park.

Barton, already serving a sentence for a previous assault, is now expected to be released on licence soon, possibly in time for him to join Newcastle's pre-season training next week.

The Newcastle manager, Kevin Keegan, who had Barton under him at City too, has publicly stood by the player and in the recent past Newcastle have signed Lee Bowyer in the face of protests and Sir Bobby Robson picked him regularly. Supporters initially against Bowyer gradually, if grudgingly, accepted that he was part of their club.

A loan move out of Tyneside has been mooted for Barton – with Bolton Wanderers being the first suggestion – but there is unlikely to be a development until after Barton, the new chairman, Derek Llambias, and the owner, Mike Ashley, have met.

The club, meanwhile, have completed arrangements for their pre-season campaign by announcing a game against the Dutch champions PSV Eindhoven on Wednesday 6 August, three days before the Magpies entertain Valencia.

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