LONDON - Merseyside Police have opened an investigation following the emergence of a video showing Everton midfielder Ross Barkley being punched in the face in a busy Liverpool bar, in the early hours of Monday morning.
Lawyers representing Barkley confirmed on Monday afternoon that the video being shared across social media was indeed authentic, releasing a statement in which they claimed the England international was "the victim of an unprovoked attack."
The CCTV footage shows Barkley, who was named man of the match in Everton’s 4-2 win against Leicester City on Sunday afternoon, in conversation with an unidentified man.
The pair appear to be chatting cordially until the man twice strikes Barkley in the face with little warning, causing him to fall to the floor. The man who throws the punches is quickly dragged off-camera.
Barkley's lawyers announced the incident did take place in the hours following Everton's Premier League victory, adding that Barkley did not know his assailant.
"We can confirm Ross was the victim of an unprovoked attack by a stranger who approached him on Sunday evening," they said in a statement.
Barkley was not seriously injured in the assault and reported for Everton training on Monday as normal.
The attack, which has been shared widely across social media, appears to have happened in the Santa Chupitos cocktail bar, in the heart of Liverpool's city centre.
Footage of Ross Barkley getting punched last night!!pic.twitter.com/AF6twt6qio
Merseyside Police confirmed on Monday that they were reviewing the footage.
“Merseyside Police is aware of footage online reportedly showing an assault in a bar in Liverpool city centre,” read a statement.
“No report of an assault has been received but officers are making enquiries to establish the circumstances of the incident.”
Barkley, a boyhood Everton supporter, was warned on Sunday by Ronald Koeman that he would be sold if he did not soon agree a contract extension.
The 23-year-old's contract runs out at the end of next season and he has yet to put pen to paper on a new deal.
"We offer him a new contract and then there are two possibilities," Koeman said after the club's win over Leicester, which moved Everton level on points with 6th-place Arsenal.
"One is sign that contract (but) if he doesn't sign the contract, then we need to sell the player. It is simple.
"Ross played really well in between the lines...you want to see your best players performing like they showed this afternoon.
"They [Barkley and Romelu Lukaku] were outstanding but the whole team was outstanding. You need those kind of players on the top level because they make difference and that is what we like."