Joey Barton is the new Eric Cantona (except not quite as good).
There, ED said it.
Since the maverick soon-to-be-ex Newcastle United midfielder joined the ranks of Twitter this summer we have been treated to Nietzsche, #helmets, George Orwell and a touch too much Morrissey for our liking.
When ED says "our" it means the royal we, obviously, such is the often grandiose but usually hilarious manner in which Barton conducts himself on the social networking site, flitting between philosophical musings, enthusiastic references to his favourite bands and ad-hominem assaults on selected #helmets who pique his ire.
Barton is an incredibly divisive player, perhaps understandably given his outspoken nature and a penchant for violence that has seen him serve time both on the sidelines and at her majesty's pleasure.
The former riles the happily patronised among football's support (an opinion! A book! Know thy place, serf!), while the latter fills the hand-wringing softies among us with fear and dread.
But - aside from the occasional on-pitch scuffle that all combative players are prone to - Barton appears to have controlled his savage temper by replacing the demon drink with an interest in the left-leaning student politics and girly indie music he no doubt would have embraced at university had he not made it as a footballer.
This is something many are either unaware of or choose to forget - Barton is pretty bright and was able to harness it into conventional education, having passed more GCSEs than around 80% of the UK.
Despite a tough background he is unlikely to have entered a life of serious crime, and after acknowledging that brawling is no longer the fashion he shuns boozy nights out for a good book and the National Geographic.
So we have an outspoken, anti-authority figure, prone to bouts of pseudo-intellectualism and with form for a scrap, available on a cut-price deal after being cut adrift by a club for whom he is frankly too good.
Ring any bells?
As it stands there is no way ED can claim Barton to be anywhere close to Cantona's legend. But since he has placed his vices under control the Scouser is developing into a wonderful ball-playing midfielder, superb with set pieces and boasting a bite in the tackle that he largely harnesses despite provocation at times, as anyone who saw Karl Henry's sustained assaults last season will testify.
And the stats don't lie - Newcastle failed to win in any of the six Premier League games Barton missed last season, and when he was on the pitch they scored an average of twice as many goals as when he was not.
Given the evidence at hand, fans of Michael Lewis's Moneyball would see it foolhardy to dismiss a (free agent) player's ability solely on the basis of his temper and mouth - unlike several 'characters' in the game, he has never to ED's knowledge hit a woman yet appears more reviled than the likes of Gazza and Best, probably because unlike them he speaks his mind when the truth hurts.
If a team like Manchester United or Arsenal sign Barton he is unlikely to have the effect of a Cantona or a Thierry Henry, as much because his position would not see him spearheading any title assault as such.
But in these days of obscenely-inflated transfer fees - particularly for home-grown players, as Liverpool have found out this summer - the value in a free transfer for an experienced, fit English player who will score or create around 15 goals a season is clear.
And as United and Gunners fans will testify, he is twice the player Darron Gibson and Denilson are. Although twice as prone to booting someone in the chest if they speak out of turn.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I think the age thing has changed. People are pretty quick to write you off once you get into your 30s but they have proved to be a lot of players' best years. If you look after yourself, keep motivated, which is very important, know your body, do the right things, and manage yourself well, then you can certainly have your best years in your 30s" - Frank Lampard insists he is not past it. Joey Barton would counter that he never had it.
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