FABRICIO Coloccini will captain Newcastle United in their pivotal relegation clash at Norwich City this afternoon ahead of talks planned for next week aimed at persuading him to stay on Tyneside until the summer.
In a move that has rocked Newcastle, United’s unsettled skipper has expressed his desire to return to Argentina to resolve a personal crisis that has affected his mood and form this season and he is wanted by former club San Lorenzo.
But Newcastle have dismissed an appeal by the Argentinian club’s hierarchy to cancel their captain’s contract, and have instead scheduled a meeting with Coloccini (below) next week to attempt to address his concerns and persuade him to stay at St James’ Park until at least the end of the season.
In the meantime he will play at Norwich this afternoon in a major sign that boss Alan Pardew still believes in the player.
Sources close to the United manager have indicated that he remains confident of “managing” the situation, with the bond between captain and manager still strong.
Newcastle fans reacted with understandable dismay to the latest set-back to hit a season that is in danger of spiralling out of control. The more sinister suggestions about their captain can be dismissed however, with United still confident enough about his commitment to both select the player for the game at Carrow Road and retain him as skipper. Instead it is understood that Coloccini’s wife is ill and the captain wishes to return home for the sake of his two young children.
There has been no bust-up between manager and player and Pardew will chair a meeting with him when they return to Tyneside next week to see what the club can do to help.
Newcastle will be reluctant to allow him to leave – and certainly not on the terms that San Lorenzo are proposing.
Coloccini has not put in a transfer request and United do not have a deal for an alternative lined up, although they do have a short-list of players who could – in theory – replace him. They did not anticipate having to put any of those deals into action until at least the summer.
San Lorenzo have set a deadline on the transfer and hope to have it completed by the end of next week – something that Newcastle have dismissed out of hand.
Quotes attributed to their president Matías Lammens suggested that they have no chance of meeting any theoretical Newcastle asking price.
He said: “Coloccini’s arrival is very difficult. We can’t go out and buy him... we have always said we depended on the desire of the player to rescind (his deal).
“We can offer him a very good contract in the case of him rescinding, but San Lorenzo have nothing left to do with regards to the negotiating.”
Coloccini’s season has taken a downward turn since his majestic performance in the Wear-Tyne derby.
Last month Pardew confessed there had been a clash between the pair, but that was more to do with the manager challenging the player’s low mood – and telling him he had to be more of a leader on and off the field. Meanwhile, United met with the agent of Tolouse midfielder Moussa Sissoko yesterday in an attempt to broker a pre-contract agreement.
Intriguingly, he also represents Bordeaux striker Cheick Diabate, who got a brace in the Europa League clash between the two sides back in December. United’s pursuit of Loic Remy has stalled.
Newcastle are also understood to have an interest in James Tomkins of West Ham, although Pardew suggested buying British was “unlikely” in this window.
He said: “The bottom line is we’ve got to get the best possible player, that’s been Arsene Wenger’s argument for 20 years.
“The problem you have in the Premier League is over-inflated prices from chief executives and managers, it makes it very difficult for players to move in the Premier League. That’s why you had an influx of foreign players and why we will again.”