Fabricio Coloccini’s continued presence at Newcastle United, in doubt for the last week, has finally been confirmed at least in the short term. Coloccini had informed the club that he wished for personal reasons to leave immediately and return to Argentina, but after a week of negotiations Alan Pardew announced that he would be staying at least until the summer. The question now appears to be whether this is merely a stay of execution for the club until the summer or the end of the matter entirely.
Coloccini had signed during the sole summer of Kevin Keegan’s second stint as manager and had a difficult first season as the club power-dived to relegation. He stayed when others would not and was able to regain form in the Championship, though whether he received any offers to leave which matched his wages at Newcastle after the season he’d just had would be interesting to know. Following promotion he maintained his newly-regained form and was one of the best centre-backs in the top division for the two years following. He was rewarded with an extended four-year contract last year in recognition of his importance to the side. This season has seen a dip in form from the high standards of the previous three years, though he’d still be classed as the top defensive performer in the squad.
The news that he wished to leave was therefore an unwelcome shock for the club. The personal reasons hinted at have as yet not been made public, and we don’t really need to know what they are, though they have been the subject of fevered speculation as all kinds of rumours spread. Suffice to say though, that he was most definitely not threatening to quit football altogether. San Lorenzo, the Argentinian club currently employing his father, were very keen to take Coloccini off Newcastle’s hands and made the fact known in the media. It seems they were Coloccini’s preferred destination should the 31-year-old return to his homeland. However they were apparently not involved in the negotiations as Coloccini attempted to secure his release from Newcastle and offered precisely nothing in terms of a fee. Perhaps they are going to go for Messi on the off chance next week. Nothing ventured, nothing gained and all that.
The negotiations therefore seem to have been between lawyers for the two parties and reportedly Newcastle’s insisted they would sue Coloccini for £7m, his supposed market value, should he walk out. This was enough to persuade Coloccini to stay, as we were told, until the end of the season at least.
It isn’t obvious what will be different then to now, however. If San Lorenzo had enough money to buy him and were willing to do so then they would have done it in the last week. They are obviously hoping that agitation to leave from the player will be enough to see him released from his contract. Coloccini himself must be aware that moving will result in a substantial wage cut so that cannot be a block to the deal, only the Argentine club’s inability to produce a fee acceptable to Newcastle. Perhaps they are hoping to negotiate a fee somewhere between £0 and £7m which they can afford in the summer, but they are not a club with cash to spare due to their efforts to buy back their ground, bought by the military government of the time in the 70s for a token fee
Likewise, Coloccini seems unlikely to act differently in the summer. He is evidently unwilling to buy out his own contract right now, and must have been advised that were he to be sued by Newcastle for breach of contract if he walked out, he would most probably lose. If he is unwilling to follow either course now then he won’t be in the summer either.
Finally, will Newcastle’s stance alter in a few short months? There’s been a suggestion that in return for not walking out now and helping the club climb away from yet another relegation battle, Newcastle will look more favourably on Coloccini’s desire to leave in the summer. The idea of the club brokering such a deal would seem feasible but for one thing, Mike Ashley’s focus on the balance sheet. We’ve all become aware that second guessing what he’ll do in any given situation is a fruitless task but if there’s one thing we can be sure of, it’s that he doesn’t volunteer to give money away that he doesn’t have to. If Newcastle didn’t have legal right on their side we’re led to believe Coloccini would already be gone forever. That legal right will still be Newcastle’s once the season is over and relegation has hopefully been avoided. That suggests Newcastle will still demand a sizeable fee then, which we have already seen neither Coloccini nor San Lorenzo are willing to meet.
Of course hanging onto a player against his will is never a good idea. But perhaps Coloccini’s need to leave will have altered by the end of the season. Perhaps the change in recruitment policy that’s resulted in a stream of new signings in the last week and the hopefully resultant upturn in results will help persuade him to stay. Whatever happens, should he end up leaving after all it would seem most likely to be to a club yet to be mentioned in this incipient saga.
Author: Mark Brophy
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