Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell has rubbished Joey Barton’s claims that the Hoops tried to hijack his move to Rangers.
Lawwell’s rebuttal came just hours after it emerged that Barton, 34, was facing a ban after allegedly breaking Scottish football’s strict betting rules.
The midfielder has already been handed a three-week ban by Rangers following a training ground bust-up, and Hoops boss Lawwell released a statement rejecting Barton’s claim that he could have ended up on the other side of the Old Firm divide.
An extract from Barton’s upcoming autobiography, “No Nonsense” — parts of which have been published in the Daily Mail — said that days before the player signed for Rangers he “took a call from an agent, who had been contacted by Peter Lawwell,” and that “the message he conveyed was straight and to the point — ‘Is there anything we can do together? Can we have a conversation?’”
But in a statement released to Press Association Sport, Lawwell said Barton had been duped.
He said: “I think Joey’s been had by a bit of a matchmaker here. I remember it well, we had just announced Brendan [Rodgers] as our new manager and I was with our company secretary in London at the time.
“An agent called me saying that Joey was going to sign for Rangers but he would really prefer to come to Celtic and were we interested in signing him, but it wasn’t something we wanted to pursue.
“These things happen to players sometimes in football, but needless to say we wish Joey well at his new club.”
Meanwhile, Press Association Sport reports the Scottish Football Association (SFA) is set to probe Barton’s betting behaviour.
The SFA and the Gambling Commission are looking into claims that the midfielder gambled on Celtic to suffer a heavy defeat to Barcelona last week. Brendan Rodgers’ side lost 7-0 in their Champions League Group C opener at the Camp Nou.
The SFA has a zero-tolerance policy in relation to betting on football games and if found guilty Barton could face a ban.
Barton is unlikely to face a major punishment if the alleged gambling was restricted to one incident, but a potential SFA charge will leave him even more vulnerable after his club suspension cast major doubt on whether he will play for Rangers again.