Newcastle captain Fabricio Coloccini dropped something of a transfer bombshell on the club last Friday by revealing that he wants to return home to his native Argentina for ‘personal reasons’, but with the Magpies top flight status hanging in the balance, his departure could have catastrophic consequences on their ability to beat the drop and keeping hold of him is of the utmost importance.
The 30-year-old centre-back has been a huge success on Tyneside since moving to the club from Deportivo La Coruna in Spain for £10.3m back in 2008, making 174 appearances for the club as a regular across the past four seasons. He is currently the club’s best paid player on around £60,000 a week and he only signed a new four-year contract extension last March following prolonged negotiations, so this latest step will come as a surprise to many and it couldn’t have come at a worse time.
Alan Pardew’s side currently sit just two points above the Premier League relegation zone in 16th place while in the midst of a debilitating and morale-sapping injury crisis which has contributed to the team picking up just seven points from their last ten league games, with their clean sheet in their last game away against Norwich at Carrow Road their first on the road in the top flight all season. This is a club in absolute free-fall, disarray or crisis, or whatever other adjective you wish to subscribe to their terrible campaign thus far and Coloccini is vital to their hopes of staying up.
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Coloccini has not handed in a formal transfer request but is thought to be desperate to return home to Argentina as soon as possible to be closer to his family and Newcastle now have to try and convince him to at least stay until the end of the season after being linked with San Lorenzo, the club which his father Osvaldo currently works for as the youth team director.
Osvaldo caused quite a stir at the start of the new year by telling Indirecto on TyC Sports: “Fabricio wants to play for San Lorenzo and he is trying his best to find an elegant way to leave Newcastle. We don’t know what Newcastle will come up with, but Fabricio is trying to rescind his contract because he wants to be back at San Lorenzo. His contract is very good and that could complicate things in an attempt for him to leave Newcastle.” There is clearly no animosity towards the club, which effectively makes it even more difficult to convince him to stay.
The continued absence of Steven Taylor with a hamstring injury and Mike Williamson’s patchy form means that Pardew has been focused on bringing at least one new defender into the club this month, with West Ham’s James Tomkins the latest name linked, instead of trying to focus all of his attentions of keeping hold of his most-prized asset. The various injury lay-offs and suspensions of the likes of Yohan Cabaye, Papiss Cisse, Tim Krul, Taylor and Cheick Tiote have no doubt contributed to their poor season so far, but having already lost Demba Ba to Chelsea this month, they will not want to lose another experienced head and vocal and influential member of the dressing room.
It seems that San Lorenzo were hopeful that Coloccini would try to buy himself out of his contract or at the very least secure a short-term loan switch away with the club’s president, Matías Lammens stating: “Coloccini to San Lorenzo is our Plan A, B and C. Our transfer deadline is next week and we cannot do anything crazy with the budget, but Coloccini to San Lorenzo represents much more than football.” Surely Newcastle would simply refuse and tell the player to honour his deal such is his value to them, especially now with the situation they find themselves in domestically, but they do risk having a terribly unhappy player on their books, which could have an impact on his performances on the pitch.
Plenty of names have been mentioned aside from Tomkins, with Montpellier captain Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, 20 year-old Denmark international centre-back Jores Okore and West Brom’s Jonas Olsson the latest. The month started out so brightly after the club completed the signing of the excellent Mathieu Debuchy, but now they face the very real prospect of losing both Ba and Coloccini, while simultaneously missing out on Loic Remy to QPR’s bumper pay packet, which will go a long way to making it a January to forget.
Pardew sounded confident of resolving the issue when asked about it yesterday: “Of course. We have got a meeting and we are going to try and resolve it. He is a class player. Great players can play through most crises.
“We have had a crisis in terms of our results. It’s players of his calibre – and Tim Krul and Yohan Cabaye – who are going to get us up the league.”
However, if the Remy switch to Loftus Road has taught us anything, it’s that during the silly season of January, things can change awfully quickly during the course of a single day, let alone the two weeks until the close of the deadline.
The Magpies have been the victims of rumour after rumour concerning their key players these past few months, with Ben Arfa the latest target, while it turned out that Ba had representatives negotiating on his behalf with Chelsea that the player had never even heard of. It is thought that Coloccini is willing to take a considerable pay-cut to make the move happen, though, which is never a good sign, but it seems that circus is never far away from Newcastle.
Nevertheless, at the risk of sounding callous, now is not the time to indulge a player’s happiness and having kept just four clean sheets all term and letting in 39 goals in 22 games, with only Aston Villa, Reading and Wigan boasting a poorer defensive record, the club needs to put its foot down while focusing on bringing in another of the aforementioned names above at the same time. Sliding through the Premier League trapdoor could have serious ramifications for the club’s financial future and letting go of someone of Coloccini’s calibre simply cannot be allowed to happen.