Joey Barton has been banned from driving for six months

Joey Barton believes “top” managers will be after the vacant Newcastle United job despite the problems posed by Mike Ashley’s ownership.

After failing to reach an agreement over a new contract, Tyneside was rocked on Monday by the departure of Rafael Benitez.

The Spaniard had long been at odds with Ashley over his reluctance to invest in the playing squad at St James’ Park, but some big names have been linked with taking over.

Perhaps the biggest was that of Jose Mourinho – though the former Chelsea, Manchester United and Real Madrid man has seemed to distance himself from the job.

“I don’t know all of the links but a club like Newcastle will always get linked with top managers,” Barton told talkSPORT.

“There will be no shortage of top coaches who are after the job.

“Rafa Benitez has left solid foundations so this next appointment is crucial. Any manager that comes in has a solid platform to go and showcase Newcastle United.”

Barton spent four years with Newcastle as a player, winning promotion from the Championship in 2009-10 and establishing himself as an important player in the Premier League the following season.

Now manager of League One side Fleetwood Town, Barton was happy to admit he still has a lot of affection for his former club.

But, while he refused to point the finger squarely at Ashley, he referenced him as a factor in his eventual departure to QPR in 2011.

“As someone who cares about Newcastle, you’re disappointed because you know the affection in which the fans held Rafa Benitez,” he said.

“You want to see Newcastle continue to grow as a football club. On the flip side of that, it’s football.

“I haven’t been there for a long period but one of the reasons I left was that there was a bit of a disconnect between me and Mike Ashley.

“It wasn’t all hunky-dory but the club changes so for me to make a call on it would be incredibly difficult.”

Whoever does take over at St James’ Park faces a difficult start to life at the club, whatever happens between now and the start of the new season.

The Magpies get underway with a home fixture against Arsenal before facing Champions League finalists Tottenham and Liverpool within the first five games of the season.

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