SOURCES close to Leeds United have ruled out any interest in midfielder Joey Barton, contrary to national media reports on Wednesday afternoon.
Barton has left Glasgow Rangers having had his contract terminated following a furious training-ground bust-up with boss Mark Warburton in the wake of a 5-1 thrashing by rivals Celtic back in September.
The 34-year-old has since been signed off with stress but is now a free agent and looking for a new club.
United, who are sixth in the Championship under head coach Garry Monk, were linked with a move for Barton in the summer of 2015 following the relegation of the midfielder’s former club Queens Park Rangers from the Premier League.
The midfielder eventually joined Burnley and helped the Clarets gain promotion to the Premier.
But sources close to Leeds say that Barton is not a player the Whites intend to pursue in January.
At a training-ground post-mortem into their Parkhead humiliation, Rangers boss Warburton was left furious when Barton refused to apologise after questioning his manager’s methods – specifically his acid-tongued criticism of Rangers’ defensive set-up – in front of the entire Gers squad and banished him from the club’s Auchenhowie training ground.
That suspension was eventually strung out for eight weeks as Rangers chiefs examined whether they had grounds to sack the ex-Marseille midfielder, who further enraged Warburton when he gave an unauthorised radio interview questioning his fellow Englishman’s handling of the initial fall-out.
When it became apparent to Ibrox bosses that dismissal was not an option, however, Barton was eventually allowed to return to training last Thursday.
But it was made clear he would not be rejoining Warburton’s group as he was instead ordered to train with the club’s Under-20s team. Areas like the training ground gym were even ruled off-limits when the rest of the first-team were present.
On Tuesday it then emerged Barton’s return had lasted just one day before he was signed off with stress.
And Rangers finally pulled the plug on Barton’s ill-fated stint at Ibrox yesterday afternoon, announcing that his contract has been terminated.
Rangers said in a statement: “Rangers and Joey Barton have agreed to terminate his contract with immediate effect. Neither Rangers nor Joey Barton will comment further.”
Barton is understood to be “gutted” that his Ibrox move has turned into such an unmitigated disaster.
He turned down a £35,000-a-week offer at Burnley, where he was named the Clarets’ player of the year after their triumphant SkyBet Championship campaign last term, in order to seal his switch to Glasgow on a two-year contract.
And a return to Burnley appears to be his most likely move once the transfer window reopens. Turf Moor manager Sean Dyche has already refused to rule out a return for the Liverpudlian after being asked about a possible reunion last month.
Barton has also fallen foul of the Scottish Football Association’s strict betting rules and faces a Hampden hearing a week on Thursday.