Joey Barton fears Newcastle could sack him and try to seek compensation
09 May 2009 07:31
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Newcastle United v Middlesbrough
Kick-off: Mon May 11, 8.00pm, St James' Park, Newcastle
TV: Setanta Sports 1
Radio: BBC Radio 5 Live
Middlesbrough come to St James' Park tomorrow night for a derby that will effectively relegate the vanquished but Newcastle's build-up to this momentous game has been tainted by Barton's red card in last Sunday's defeat at Liverpool, and his subsequent behaviour. Barton and manager Alan Shearer allegedly came close to blows in a furious confrontation and the club have suspended the player indefinitely.
Sources close to Barton fear that if Newcastle can find sufficient grounds to sack him, they will be able to demand significant compensation. When Chelsea sacked Mutu for drug use in 2004, the club sought compensation for breach of contract by a player who had cost them £13.8 million. Mutu was initially ordered to pay £9.6 million in compensation, a figure that was increased to £13.68 million in FIFA'S Dispute Resolution Chamber.
Barton cost Newcastle £5.8 million when he signed from Manchester City in June 2007 and he is one of the best-paid players at the club and while he would not be required to pay as much compensation as Mutu did, it would be related to how much Newcastle invested in him. Newcastle could still cut their losses on the player if another club makes an offer they consider reasonable but there will not be a long queue.
Getting Barton off the books is among a number of essential tasks should they be demoted. Relegation would devastate Newcastle in a way that it would not Middlesbrough. It has been reported that at no stage this season have Newcastle budgeted for relegation. While publicly refusing to talk about the consequences of demotion, Boro are privately confident that they are well equipped to cope.
The loss of Premier League TV money equates to a £30 million deficit and sponsorship and matchday spending is also sure to decrease. Both clubs will need to cut their wage bill but that task will be much harder for Newcastle, who, according to figures provided by Deloitte, pay the most of any club outside the big four. Those figures do not reflect Manchester City's recent investment in big salaries but at over £70 million, Newcastle's wage bill is nearly £30 million more than Boro's.
Getting rid of Barton would be a start and with Michael Owen and Mark Viduka – on combined wages close to £200,000 per week – out of contract there are further savings to be made. Claudio Cacapa and Peter Lovenkrands are also at the end of their contracts. But the problem is what to do with players such as Alan Smith and Damien Duff who joined on big money. Duff is under contract until 2011 and Smith to 2012 and other clubs would hesitate to take on their salaries. Newcastle, like Leeds before them, could end up subsidising their players to play for other clubs. Fabricio Coloccini and Geremi are two more who other clubs are unlikely to take on at their current salaries.
Middlesbrough have a much smaller wage bill and with so many academy players in their squad, wages are much better structured. Their only real liability is Afonso Alves, who is among the best paid at the club. He was signed for around £13 million last season but his value has fallen due to his poor performances.
However, Boro do have plenty of saleable assets. Stewart Downing will leave in the summer and with a line of suitors waiting, led by Tottenham, Boro can expect to get £12 million for him. There would be no shortage of clubs trying to sign Tuncay, whose market value is around £8 million. David Wheater, Emmanuel Pogatetz, Gary O'Neil and even Mido, on loan at Wigan, could be used to top up the incomings.
Newcastle, by contrast, are short on saleable assets. They would recoup good money for Obafemi Martins, perhaps as much as £12 million, but would struggle to get good value for others. Steven Taylor and Sebastien Bassong would be coveted but the former is a Geordie who would want to stay and the latter has been their most consistent player and his wages are not high. Newcastle have been forced to pay £5.3 million to Real Majorca for Jonas Gutierrez after a transfer dispute and it is understood the Spanish club would receive 20 per cent of a sell-on fee.
Replacing any players they do sell will be tricky unless Mike Ashley invests even more than the £230 million he has spent so far. The academy has only just got going again after years of neglect, so, beyond promising strikers Nile Ranger and Andy Carroll, they will not be able to replace from within. Boro, meanwhile, fielded six academy graduates in the starting XI against Fulham last month. The average age of Gareth Southgate's last squad was 24 – that of Newcastle's was 27. In those two squads, Boro did not have a single player of 30 or over. Newcastle had five.
To cap it all, Newcastle are losing the support of fans. Along with Sunderland, they have suffered the biggest drop in average attendance this season, losing almost 3,000 fans. Boro have been attracting more people – their average attendance is up six per cent.
Shearer has apparently been offered a four-year contract by Newcastle and is ready to stick with them even if they go down. However, despite Newcastle being much the bigger club, it is his old England team-mate Southgate who would be in a far stronger position to bring his side straight back up.