Newcastle United's decision to agree a transfer fee yesterday for captain Kevin Nolan with relegated West Ham United has been met with fury inside the St James' Park dressing room.
Joey Barton admitted he was "devastated" and felt "sick" by Newcastle's decision to sell their captain, and indicated he could be next to leave, along with defender Jose Enrique and winger Jonas Gutierrez.
All three could follow Nolan out of town, as Newcastle are refusing to offer Barton a new deal, while Spanish left-back Enrique, 25, is refusing to sign an extension to his current contract and has attracted interest from Liverpool. Argentine winger Gutierrez, 27, has two more years of his deal to run.
Newcastle's decision to sell Nolan follows the collapse of negotiations between the club and the player over an extension to his contract, which had two more years to run. Nolan, who will be 29 next week, wanted another three years to be added on, taking him to 2016, but Newcastle would only offer a two-year extension. The midfielder was also told he would only be eligible for a pay rise if they finished ninth or higher in the Premier League next season. The Tyneside club still have the bulk of the £35m they received from Liverpool for Andy Carroll in January, but are insisting they will not be held to ransom by a player in his late 20s.
Barton reacted publicly – on Twitter – to Nolan's impending departure, writing on his way to Royal Ascot: "Just on my way to Ascot, feel sick. #whatgoinonatthetoonffs". He wrote about Nolan: "Great player, leader, captain, person, trainer and mostly a friend for life. Devastated to see him SOLD! #mejoseandjonasnext". He was later contacted by the club and asked to stop tweeting.
Newcastle would like to offload Barton this summer, having decided not to offer him an extension to his current deal, which runs out in a year's time. Barton was widely regarded as Newcastle's best player last season, while Nolan was the club's leading goalscorer with 12 goals, but now it seems neither will be at St James' Park next season, because owner, Mike Ashley, and managing director, Derek Llambias, will not agree to rewarding them with long-term deals. Nolan is said to be furious with Ashley and Llambias, which is one of the reasons he is keen to move to West Ham, despite their relegation to the Championship.
The signing of Nolan, who is keen to be reunited with his former manager Sam Allardyce, would represent a major coup for West Ham, who have agreed a fee of £4.1m and are offering wages of £55,000 a week, a rise of £13,000 on his deal at Newcastle. Nolan has still to agree personal terms but West Ham are confident the transfer will be completed today and are also set to sign another Allardyce stalwart, Ricardo Gardner, who has just been released by Bolton.
The imminent departure of Nolan has thrown Newcastle into turmoil, amid fears of a fire sale of players in a bid to cut the wage bill. The club insist that the Carroll money will be invested on new players, and say the £6m signing of French midfielder Yohan Cabaye, 25, from Lille on a five-year contract worth £50,000 a week, shows the change of direction. Manager Alan Pardew said as much recently, when he spoke on a phone-in about the difficulties in finding new players. "The pool isn't big if your agenda is young players who fit into our wage structure," he said.
Newcastle are relying on chief scout, Graham Carr, who is the father of comedian, Alan Carr, to unearth more hidden gems, such as Cheik Tiote, who was signed for £3.5m last August, and was an instant hit.