Queen's Park Rangers want to dismiss Joey Barton, whom they expect to be banned for up to 11 games following his conduct at Manchester City on Sunday, though the lucrative terms of his long-term contract will make the cost of doing so a staggering £12.5m.
The Rangers manager, Mark Hughes, who is understood to have found Barton just as difficult to work with as did his predecessor, Neil Warnock, may have to soldier on with Barton on the club's books, despite some of the midfielder's team-mates finding his presence to be difficult and destabilising. Barton was signed last summer under a deal which sees him command a wage of £80,000 a week and which has three years left to run.
Hughes must decide whether to push for Barton's sale, though that may remove a large slice of the budget available for the manager to make good on his promise that Rangers will not flirt with relegation while he is in charge.
Barton, who was yesterday charged with two acts of violent conduct by the FA, is expected to receive a minimum four-game ban, though it will more probably be between nine and 11 games out. A three-man FA commission will rule on the case by the end of the week, even if Barton accepts his chance to appeal by 6pm tonight.
Rangers' attention has been drawn to the fact that Javier Mascherano, then of Liverpool, received a two-match ban for failing to leave the field of play when dismissed at Old Trafford in March 2008.
Rangers have begun discussions with disciplinary specialists, though they are aware of the difficulty in sacking players – even Carlos Tevez's unauthorised leave of absence was insufficient to bring that course of action at City this season.
Barton was dismissed for elbowing Tevez – his second red card of the season. He also kneed City's Sergio Aguero in the back of the leg. A third red card would trigger an additional two-game ban. Barton also attempted to headbutt the City captain, Vincent Kompany.
Barton's use of Twitter is not likely to land him in further trouble, though it is five months since he was warned about predicting results through it. After the BBC's Alan Shearer and Gary Lineker criticised his behaviour at the Etihad Stadium, Barton made a series of posts which concluded with him referring to Shearer as a "shit pundit/manager..." and adding "I really don't like that prick, in fact I honestly despise him..."
Barton's nature baffles some of those with whom he plays and some longer-serving members of the QPR squad believe that it was the decision to sign marquee names such as him, rather than sticking with established principles, that caused Rangers so much trouble this season.
The QPR chairman, Tony Fernandes, did not rule out Barton having a future at Loftus Road. "There are experienced people who will come back to me and we'll review the whole situation," he said. "There's a process that the club goes through in terms of sendings off and disciplinary action. That's something Mark Hughes will report through to the board."
Twitter: we follow so you don't have to
1.40am: Gary Lineker
Hear @Joey7Barton had a dig at Shearer. Is this an attempt, I wonder, to deflect from the obvious and deserved criticisms coming his way.
9.32am: Joey Barton
No deflections here mate. Think the fact about 100m people seen it will see to that. Just don't like how he gets personal.
12pm: Gary Lineker
@joey7barton Still raging then? Still kicking out? And still, presumably, misunderstood? But only by yourself I suspect.
12.17pm: Joey Barton
Do u wanna go there publicly "Mr Squeaky Clean"? Think u should have a look in that vast closet of skeltons before u respond.
I know a lot about THAT side to u the people don't and won't bat an eye lid at exposing u. So mind ur manners Squeaky...
Meanwhile, judging by the tweets, Man City's player seemed to have a great night...
5.03am: Joleon Lescott
Right I'm gonna try get some rest. School run, then meeting the lads.
10.04am: Vincent Kompany
Struggling to remember what happened last night... Woke up with a medal around my neck.
1.42pm: Nigel de Jong
What a night! Hangover part3.