By Alex Stevens
Joey Barton has lit the blue touchpaper ahead of the next Scottish season by dismissing the credential of Celtic captain Scott Brown.
The controversial midfielder, who has joined Rangers on a free transfer after signing a two-year deal, has claimed Brown is nowhere near his level as a player.
The ultra-committed midfield pair will go head to head in four Old Firm league derbies next season following Rangers’ return to the top flight.
Celtic fans have been quick to warn Barton that he will put in his place’by tough-tackling Brown.
But former England international Barton says the experienced Scotland star will not be able to touch him if he plays to his best.
Speaking on talkSPORT’s Alan Brazil Sports Breakfast on Saturday, the 33-year-old said: “People keep talking about Joey Barton and Scott Brown. He ain’t in my league. He is nowhere the level I am as a player. He can’t get to me.
If I play well, Scott Brown doesn’t stand a chance. That is not me being blasé. That is me just stating what I believe.”
Barton insists Brown, 30, won’t be the only player struggling to live with him next season.
The former Manchester City, Marseille and Newcastle star appears to have no doubts that he will be a success in the Scottish Premiership.
“There are some good sides, some really good players there who are going to be ultra-competitive,” Barton told talkSPORT. “I am expecting I have got to be at the best of my ability for Rangers to do what they need to do. I’m, trained, I am ready to go.
“I have played against Scottish players south of the border. Every one of them gives you a game, every one of them is at it. I am expecting nothing less.
“I have been a marked man for ten years – a lot of it by my own doing – and I am comfortable with it. I am comfortable with expectation, I’m comfortable with pressure, I’m comfortable with my mindset and focus I have in terms of turning in my own performances. If I get to that level, unfortunately for anybody up there they ain’t going to live with me.”
Barton is renowned for his strong opinions on football, not only of his own performances but also the wider game in general.
He has courted controversy throughout his career and has been in trouble with the authorities on numerous occasions.
In other Celtic news, the club have completed a striker transfer after the paperwork was finalised.