Joey Barton has claimed Ross Barkley's proposed move to Chelsea failed because the Everton midfielder wanted to speak to Antonio Conte but could not get through to the Blues' manager whose phone was turned off.
Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur were repeatedly linked with a move for Barkley and last season's Premier League champions reportedly agreed a £35m deal with the Toffees on deadline day (31 August). Everton's majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri even suggested Barkley had travelled down to London to undergo his medical ahead of completing the move, a claim which the England midfielder has since dismissed.
At any rate, Barkley's move did not go through and the 23-year-old, who will be out of action for approximately three months after injuring his hamstring in training, is set to remain at Goodison Park at least until January.
However, speaking to talkSPORT on Monday (4 September), Barton claimed the reason why the deal was not completed was slightly more bizarre than wages demands or concerns over Barkley's fitness.
According to the former Manchester City, Newcastle and Burnley man, the Everton midfielder wanted to speak to Conte about his role in the team but could not get through to the Italian, who had his phone switched off.
"I heard a really interesting thing about what happened with the Ross Barkley transfer," Barton explained. "Conte turned his phone off and Barkley's representatives were trying to contact him.
"He wanted to say: 'Look, where am I going to play', and Conte turned his phone off. That is why Barkley got cold feet and never signed. He thought: 'Well, if the manager isn't answering the phone to me he clearly doesn't want me', and that is why he went back to Everton."
Barkley was subject of transfer speculation throughout the summer after refusing to sign a new deal at Goodison Park, as Everton manager Ronald Koeman said in July that the England international was certain to leave Merseyside.
However, while Koeman is willing to let Barkley go, Everton's £50m price-tag appeared to have put off any potential suitors, until Chelsea approached the Toffees with a much lower bid.
Spurs and Chelsea are widely expected to make another offer for the midfielder in January, which Everton might be forced to accept unless they want to run the risk of losing Barkley, who is highly unlikely to change his stance and sign a new deal, for free next summer.
On Friday (1 September), the Evening Standard reported Tottenham will revisit a potential deal in January having initially harboured concerns over the length of his current injury lay-off, with Barkley believed to favour a move to north London.
Tottenham would represent an attractive destination for Barkley, given Mauricio Pochettino's record in developing youngsters. However, the England international, who scored scored five goals in 36 Premier League games last term, would face stiff competition to get into the starting XI ahead of Christian Eriksen, Mousa Dembele and Dele Alli.
However, the Evening Standard added Chelsea are also likely to test Everton's resolve again, with Conte seemingly undeterred by Barkley's snub last week.