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West Ham’s controversial Barton move not a Balotelli-sized gamble

| 11.08.2015

West Ham’s decision to offer Joey Barton a contract hasn’t sat overly well with some fans, but those Irons a little bemused by the transfer may be pleasantly surprised further down the line.

There is the obvious history of misdemeanours, both on and off the field, which have cast a shadow over Barton’s career, and his outspoken nature will clearly rub some up the wrong way in a dressing room.

On the flipside though, at 32, he looks to have mellowed slightly, maintaining an air of respectability to uphold his occasional media work.

It could be said the most likely place to get into a scrap with the Scouser these days is on social media where anything from religion to politics is fair game.

There’s no hiding the fact that he could still be a liability on a given day – 11 yellows and a red were issued Barton’s way for QPR last season – but the former R’s skipper is certainly blessed with ability.

Unlike Mario Balotelli, a player with a comparably maverick nature, Barton comes for free where the Italian cost £16m of Liverpool’s money.

Barton’s wages are likely to be on the chunkier side, though the lack of a transfer fee massively balances the finances out and if anything is a huge positive, with Aston Villa and Bournemouth also keen on acquiring him.

Judging by Bilic’s opening-day Arsenal masterstroke, where the Hammers’ diamond midfield was key to their 2-0 Emirates victory, Barton can easily be integrated even as a squad player.

The former Newcastle man’s versatility means he could conceivably play in any position in such a midfield system, which could take some heat off 16-year-old Reece Oxford for example.

It remains to be seen how much or little Bilic wishes to rely upon him, but Barton’s addition shouldn’t ring too many alarm bells….yet.

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Christian Crowther

Give Christian a sport with anything remotely spherical in it and he’ll happily while away the hours watching it on the box. However, he’d much prefer writing about, playing or betting on golf, football, cricket, tennis, snooker.... you get the picture.