Apart from his footballing skills, what sets Joey Barton apart from the rest are his antics off the field and no other footballer (bar Mario Balotelli) can divide opinions as much as the Marseille midfielder does.
Barton has been an above average presence in the British footballing circles with occasional spurts in form that saw him getting the odd international start, while this season, he has been far brilliant than the average Premier League central midfielders.
Barton’s passing ability and tackling were always better than average midfielders in England and since 2009, his progress graph only marks in the upward direction. With over 81% passing accuracy, Barton has provided three assists for his team, bagging one goal in the process too.
To compare his performances with Premier League stars, here’s one stat to demonstrate how good he has been this season.
Barton completed 46 successful passes out of 59 attempted pass on an average (77.9%) in a match, whereas average Premier League central midfielders make 32 successful passes out of 49 passes (65%) on an average; here keeping games played for 90 minutes as constant for both cases.
Barton’s image as a brilliant footballer has been tarnished because much negative publicity has come in his way due to assorted counts of violent incidents and string of misdemeanors.
He was seen as a clueless idiot for the rash challenge he made and further involving in affray in QPR’s final game against Manchester City last season, where the fate of both the teams were hanging in balance. He was often been red carded for expressing his crude passion for the game, regardless of consequence.
Just for the sake of records, Arsenal legend Patrick Vieira has seen eight red cards in 307 appearances (0.03 red cards per game), Lee Catermole has been red carded six times in 156 appearances, while Barton was given the marching orders five times in his career (0.02 red cards per game) in 227 league appearances.
His violent streak even attracted a prison sentence which is rare for a professional footballer at this level. While he has been irreverent, creative and outspoken in the use of his Twitter handle, recent incidents, however, have shown completely contrasting facets of Barton.
His contribution for raising awareness for justice for the victims of the Hillsborough tragedy came as a pleasant surprise when a high flying footballer engaged meaningfully with the local community.
On the pitch also, Barton has created flutters with his drive and industry in the Marseille midfield and it seems he has put his past issues to bed for good.
While it is too early to say the second coming of Joey Barton has been successful (given the fact that he has had too many of them, all ending in shambles in the past), it’s certain that Barton has broken the stereotypical mould of the PR-hungry, agent and hangers-on surrounded modern day footballer.
If only he could have really apprehended the true essence and meanings of Friedrich Nietzsche’s quotes, we wouldn’t have had to imagine a personality of an unreconstructed recidivist. But, Joey Barton is still irrevocably and irreparably Joey Barton.