Marcelino frustrates Newcastle

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The Independent Online

Newcastle United are seeking talks with the defender Marcelino after losing patience with the injury-troubled Spaniard. The club has sent for the former Real Mallorca player's agent in an effort to resolve his situation, and with the Spanish transfer window due to open next month, his days at St James' Park could be numbered.

Newcastle United are seeking talks with the defender Marcelino after losing patience with the injury-troubled Spaniard. The club has sent for the former Real Mallorca player's agent in an effort to resolve his situation, and with the Spanish transfer window due to open next month, his days at St James' Park could be numbered.

Marcelino was signed by Ruud Gullit for £5.8m in July last year, but has started just 14 of the club's 69 games since, making two further appearances as a substitute. He has been injured since the first game of the season - the 2-0 defeat at Manchester United - and is now out with a groin strain.

However, the most serious of his injuries was a snapped finger tendon which kept him out of action for two months, much to the astonishment of the club's manager, Bobby Robson. Now the chairman, Freddy Shepherd, has decided that the situation has to be resolved and is demanding a meeting to sort out the Spaniard's future.

"This is just not good enough and enough is enough," he said. "Certainly it is not what we expected when Ruud Gullit signed Marcelino from Real Mallorca. We have asked Marcelino's agent to come across from Spain this week so we can discuss ways of sorting this all out. We are looking for constructive discussion and want to take this forward.

"What is particularly frustrating is that Marcelino has proved he is a good player when he has been out there."

Marcelino arrived at St James' Park as Gullit reviewed his defenders after the 1999 FA Cup final defeat by Manchester United. Nikos Dabizas and Alessandro Pistone were left in no doubt that there was little future for them during the Dutchman's reign, and the Spaniard and Frenchmen Alain Goma and Franck Dumas were recruited at a combined cost of more than £11m.

However, Gullit himself cut his losses after a disastrous start to the season, and Dumas was not far behind as Robson reluctantly agreed his request to leave.

Injuries and a lack of form saw Marcelino and Goma slip out of contention for a starting place, and it was left to Dabizas, Pistone, Steve Howey, loan-signing Helder and the youngster Aaron Hughes to fill the gaps as Robson engineered a remarkable recovery.

Hughes remains a fixture in the side and, in the absence of Dabizas, who is effectively out for the season with a knee injury, Goma has taken his chance with both hands. But United can afford no passengers in defence after selling Steve Howey, Pistone and Laurent Charvet in recent months and having Warren Barton, Andy Griffin, Dabizas and Marcelino injured at various points this season.

Such has been the gravity of the problem in recent weeks that the former England midfielder Rob Lee has been employed as a sweeper in the last three games. Robson has several targets in mind for strengthening his defence, with Barnsley's Chris Morgan and the Portuguese international Helder - now back at Deportivo La Coruña - the subject of persistent links, and it would be no surprise if he decided to sell one of his less productive assets to help fund a new transfer.

Nolberto Solano will target the eagerly-anticipated Tyne-Wear derby for a return after undergoing a scan on a hamstring strain. The 25-year-old Peruvian limped off during Saturday's 2-1 victory over Ipswich at St James' Park after picking up the injury, and it was feared that he could be missing for several weeks. But a scan has revealed that the injury was not as bad as was first thought, and although he will almost certainly miss the trip to Leicester on Saturday, he could be ready to return for the visit of Sunderland on 18 November.

Newcastle have fended off on Leeds United's reported interest in Kieron Dyer, the 21-year-old England midfielder. Yesterday Newcastle dismissed the story as "speculation".

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