Newcastle midfielder Joey Barton begins talks with QPR
Newcastle midfielder Joey Barton was in talks with QPR this afternoon as his future moved closer to being resolved.
Press Association Sport understands the London club have made an approach for the 28-year-old, who is in the final year of his contract at St James' Park, and have been told they can talk to the player.
Technically, though, they did not need to follow that protocol as Barton was made available for a free transfer earlier this summer after criticising the club's recruitment policy via his Twitter account.
Having been forced to train with the youth team and alone in the aftermath of that incident, Barton started Newcastle's first two games of the Barclays Premier League season after persuading manager Alan Pardew he was fully focused on the task ahead.
He joined the club for £5.8million from Manchester City in June 2007, and had looked close to signing a new deal in January but talks stalled following Andy Carroll's departure for Liverpool.
The contract on the table then has since been withdrawn and the player has been told he will not be offered another.
The sale of Kevin Nolan to West Ham irked the once-capped England international further, and his comments on the Magpies' efforts to strengthen the squad this summer were not well received in the boardroom.
However, Barton, arguably the club's best player last season, has continued to perform on the pitch and has played his part in a stormy 0-0 opening day draw with Arsenal and Saturday's 1-0 victory at Sunderland.
Pardew revealed yesterday that Barton would not be involved in tomorrow's Carling Cup second-round trip to Scunthorpe as he recovered from a minor foot problem, but that he expected him to return for Fulham's visit to Tyneside on Sunday.
Pardew said: "He answered my question in terms of his commitment to the club and to the team again on Saturday, and that's what I live and die by.
"You want top players to perform at their top level for your club when you are a manager, and that's what he did.
"He won't be involved this Thursday because he has a problem with his feet at the moment which isn't major, but we just need to rest him.
"But he will be available for Sunday."
When asked previously about the likelihood of Barton remaining on Tyneside after the transfer window has closed, Pardew has adopted a "never say never" approach.
QPR are the first club to make their interest known, though, but it remains to be seen whether they can persuade Barton his future lies at Loftus Road, with the player having previously indicated he would see out his current contract on Tyneside.
He has also claimed he would only leave Newcastle for Champions League football, but the lure of QPR owner Tony Fernandes' cash could yet prove decisive.
Rangers boss Neil Warnock is being urged to act swiftly by Fernandes, but insists signing the players he wants is far from easy.
"I'm going to be busy now. I'm doing 12 weeks work in eight days and I'm finding it very, very difficult and tiring," he said.
"I hope we get one in before the weekend just to start the ball rolling.
"It will all be Monday or Tuesday next week. I don't know why it happens like that.
"We are looking to bring in good players. It's easier said than done even if you've got money.
"The chairman is really trying his hardest. I spoke to him last night and he's as excited as I am.
"He wants me to have signed them yesterday. You don't often get a chairman like that. It's usually always about next month."
Barton's departure would further anger Newcastle fans who have taken to him since his emergence from the off-field problems which saw him jailed in May 2008, and would leave Pardew with another significant hole to plug during the remaining week of the transfer window.
It is understood that the next move will come from either QPR or the player himself through his much-publicised Twitter account, with Newcastle and Pardew waiting to see what unfolds.
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