Barton: I'm England's best midfielder
Joey Barton has proclaimed himself to be the best midfielder available to England boss Fabio Capello and issued a damning indictment of Gareth Barry, calling the Manchester City player a teacher's pet.
Not for the first time, Barton has criticised those currently in favour with the national coach and talked up his own worth on the international stage.
After the 2006 World Cup, Barton mocked the likes of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole for bringing out autobiographies when he said: "England did nothing in that World Cup, so why were they bringing books out? 'We got beat in the quarter-finals. I played like s**t. Here's my book'."
Nonetheless, Barton earned his only England cap - against Spain four years ago - in the wake of those remarks.
He has since rediscovered his excellent form for Newcastle United but appears to be nowhere near the squad ahead of June's Euro 2012 qualifier against Switzerland at Wembley.
In an interview with French magazine So Foot, Barton is quoted as saying: "Honestly, I think I'm the best [English midfielder]. Luka Modric and Samir Nasri are very good, but in terms of English players ... well, Jack Wilshere isn't bad, but Frank Lampard's on the way down and Steven Gerrard's been injured a lot.
"I'm English and I love playing for my country. Maybe the people at the top have a problem with me. I don't know. But the trouble I had was four years ago. They should be able to forgive, shouldn't they?"
On Barry, Barton added: "Did you see the game against Germany at the World Cup? If you watch the fourth goal, when [Mesut] Ozil was up against Barry, it was like the hare and the tortoise.
"Barry's got a very good agent. He's also discreet and always agrees with the manager. He's like the guy who sits in the front row and listens to the teacher. I certainly don't lose any sleep when I play against him."
Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini has since defended Barry, saying: "Joey Barton is a good player but Gareth Barry is a fantastic player. I can say only this. It is a situation that is not important to me."
Barton also questioned England's technical and tactical approach.
"Look at Jordan Henderson [against France]. He was up against [Yann] M'Vila, [Mathieu] Valbuena, Nasri and [Yoann] Gourcuff. And he had Gareth Barry alongside him. What could they do against those players? France killed us at Wembley.
"We English will play the next 50 World Cups and we'll never win one. The people in charge at the FA played football maybe 50 or 60 years ago and still think that we can win a World Cup in the same way we did in 1966.
"We're too focused on tradition in England, like always having to play 4-4-2. Sometimes you need to experiment, drop a bit deeper so you have more space to move into. France, Italy and Germany have done it. We've been doing the same thing for 20 years."
Barton has also suggested he could yet leave Newcastle in the summer unless they show ambition by keeping hold of their best players and reinvesting the £35 million they received from the sale of Andrew Carroll to Liverpool.
"It's important to respect the people who come to the stadium or watch the games on telly," he said. "That's what I told [the Newcastle management]. I told them the goal shouldn't be just to survive, to finish 16th or 17th, every season.
"We had a good player, Carroll, and we sold him. I told the management that I was worried, that I was scared this might happen every year. But they assured me they don't want to go down that road.
"I don't know if I believe them. I told them I might stay this summer because we have some good players and money to spend. But I'm going to wait and see if players like Kevin Nolan, Cheick Tiote and Jose Enrique stay.
"If Nolan signs a new deal, I will as well. But I hope the club step things up. I want to be ambitious and I think the club share that desire."