Joey Barton seems to be on the verge of clinching the move to the seaside he has craved all summer but instead of joining Fleetwood or Blackpool, who he has been linked with recently, the suspended Queen's Park Rangers' midfielder appears to be about to join Marseilles on loan.
A swap deal is being considered by the two clubs where Barton joins the French Ligue 1 side on a season's long loan with Cameroon central defender Stéphane Mbia heading the other way. Barton is suspended for 12 games after his dismissal in the final match of last season against his former club Manchester City and getting Mbia in exchange for him would provide QPR with an extra player for the start of the Premier League campaign.
The troubled midfielder spent part of the summer training with Fleetwood Town, leading to speculation that he would sign for the League Two newcomers. He was stripped of the QPR captaincy after his sending off at City and yesterday learned that he would not be given a squad number for this season by manager Mark Hughes. His old No 17 shirt was handed to summer signing Ryan Nelsen.
Barton took to Twitter last night to express surprise regarding the loss of his squad number, which indicates his lack of prospects at Loftus Road. "Heard my shirt numbers gone to someone else. News to me..." he wrote. "Just come off the golf course so only just heard. A call would of [sic] been nice. Ah, well life goes on..."
A move to Marseilles, former European champions, would certainly be preferable to a long spell on the sidelines at QPR, though whether Barton could handle the volatile atmosphere at the Stade Vélodrome is another matter. Barton signed off from Twitter last night with "Bonne nuit".