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By ESPN Staff

Monaco could renew interest in Man City's Barton

Monaco have emerged as a surprise contender to sign Joey Barton - but not for another six months.

It has been widely anticipated the Manchester City midfielder will leave Eastlands this summer following his negative reaction to the contract offer put before him during the January transfer window.

Although Pearce has continually insisted he wants Barton to stay, relations between the pair hit an all-time low last month when the player turned up half an hour late for his post-season debrief. Barton subsequently left City's Carrington training ground when he was told he would have to wait until Pearce had concluded his individual discussions with the remainder of his first-team squad.

Despite rumoured interest from Arsenal, Middlesbrough and even Manchester United, Blues officials insist there has been no formal contact from anyone over the 23-year-old, although his advisers dispute that theory.

However, it is acknowledged one option open to Barton would be to see out the final year of his contract with City, before leaving on a Bosman in 12 months' time.

While UEFA regulations do not allow Barton to negotiate with another Premiership club until next summer, they do permit him to sign pre-contract terms with continental sides from January 1.

It means that should Monaco follow up their initial tentative interest, they could be in pole position to tie up a deal for the former England Under-21 international early in the New Year.

Having slapped in a well-publicised transfer request on the eve of deadline-day in January, Barton knows his immediate future may rest on Pearce's ability to bring in midfield reinforcements this summer.

City have already spoken to Quinton Fortune, who has been released by Manchester United, while Real Madrid's Thomas Gravesen is another player to have caught Pearce's eye.

Pearce is a long-time admirer of former Everton star Gravesen, who looks increasingly certain to leave the Bernabeu this summer, even if he is keeping his options open until the club's presidential elections are concluded.

In both instances though, the Blues face competition from, among others, Champions League-bound Celtic, with Gravesen also being courted by Galatasaray, who can also offer the opportunity of playing in Europe's number one club competition next season.