Marseille have told Joey Barton he must "sort out" his situation with Queens Park Rangers before the Ligue 1 club can make a move to sign him permanently.
After joining on a season-long loan deal last summer, Barton, 30, has become an important if not necessarily essential part of the OM squad.
The former England international has frequently stated his ambition to remain at the Stade Velodrome, while the club have also voiced their hope of extending Barton's stay. However, with no clause in the loan deal allowing OM to buy Barton, the French side's sporting director, Jose Anigo, told the midfielder to speak to QPR first.
"It's not up to us. He has to sort out that with QPR. The ball is in their court," Anigo is reported as saying by Mediafoot Marseille. "I really love the man and his personality. He's a straight-talking boy. He doesn't mince his words! He's great for journalists. He fits in at the club. He always wants to win. And in the dressing-room, he's a good person who pushes the team upwards. It would be a good thing if he stayed."
Recently relegated to the Championship, QPR have expressed their wish that Barton, who left the club for Marseille after being banned for 12 matches, return to help them back into the Premier League at the first time of asking.
Should he join OM, Barton would have to take a significant wage cut with the Ligue 1 runners-up only paying around a third of his current monthly salary, and club president Vincent Labrune, has stated he would be unable to pay more.
For his part, Barton has repeatedly declared wages would not prove a stumbling block. "I'm realistic. In France, there is perhaps only PSG who could pay me the salary QPR are paying me, but I don't really want to go to Paris. Money isn't the most important thing. I don't really care about it much," the former Manchester City and Newcastle United midfielder said earlier this month.