QPR could end up with Joey Barton whether they like it or not after Marseille handed the midfielder a take-it-or-leave-it offer that would slash his pay by more than half.
The man on loan to the French giants last season has a permanent deal on the Stade Velodrome table, but would have to accept close to £25,000-a-week rather than almost £70,000, which he negotiated when signing for Rs two years ago.
Even though they have handed him the number 17 shirt for the new campaign, Rangers made it plain they would prefer the 30-year-old to end a troubled stay which included him being banned for the first 12 matches of last season, but they are playing hardball over the pay-off Barton is demanding for the final two years of his contract.
Chronicle sport has learned Marseille want Barton and Rangers to rip up his deal so the French club can sign him on a free transfer. However, chief executive Phil Beard made it plain any exit would have to benefit Hoops as well.
He said: “The difficulty with Joey is that he makes his feelings clear to most people.
“He’s a QPR player, and if he stays with us we hope he will get involved and put effort in.
“Over the last few months he’s made it clear he wasn’t that excited about coming back, and if we can get the right deal for the club we’ll let him move on.”
But a source close to Marseille said the player who arrived back for the start of Rangers’ pre-season training two days late was anything but a priority for them.
“The club has a number of players it wishes to sign ahead of Barton,” added the insider.
“He did well for the club last season, but it must be remembered he is 30, and a two-year contract, which he seeks, has to be reflected in the Marseille budget.”
Marseille president Vincent Labrune added the ball was in Rangers’ court.
He said: “We appreciate Joey and we made him an offer, but we are not masters of the game and the decision belongs to Queens Park Rangers.”