Newcastle United have been rocked by the request of their captain, Fabricio Coloccini, to leave the club during the January transfer window. The 30-year-old told club officials today that he wanted to return home to Argentina.
His representatives flew to Tyneside for a meeting to tell the club that the player no longer felt he could stay and wished to leave before the end of the month. That is a massive blow to manager Alan Pardew's attempts to steer Newcastle away from the Premier League relegation zone. The club have won twice in their last 16 games and head to Norwich tomorrow without a league victory away from St James' Park this season.
Coloccini is currently the best paid player at St James' Park, on a salary of around £3m per year. He has become a hugely dependable and popular performer at the club and his display in the Tyne-Wear derby with Sunderland earlier in the season brought comparisons to Bobby Moore from Pardew.
However, Coloccini's form has dipped recently and his father, Osvaldo, has expressed a wish for his son to be allowed to return home for what his agent called "personal matters". Newcastle must now decide whether to allow the £10m signing from Deportivo La Coruña in 2008 to leave during the transfer window. That may depend on whether they can find a replacement before the end of the month.
Coloccini signed a new four-year deal last year to stay at the club but the desire from the Argentina international now is to return home, possibly to join San Lorenzo, for whom he played for during the 2000-01 season and where his father is now employed. Osvaldo has admitted his son is eager to move back to the club for whom he played on loan from Milan for a season. Newcastle may have to consider the possibility of loaning the central defender to San Lorenzo, with the Argentinian side unlikely to be able to pay a major fee for a player who made the Premier League team of the year last season.
Pardew had provisionally included Coloccini in his squad for Newcastle's game at Carrow Road. But San Lorenzo's president, Matias Lammens, appears hopeful of securing a swift solution, having admitted today they are interested in signing him.
"Coloccini to San Lorenzo is the plan A, B and C," Lammens said. "He represents much more than football – he played here six months and was champion, his father works at the club and is a fan. The deadline is next week but we cannot do anything crazy with the budget."
After starting his professional career at Boca Juniors, Coloccini left the Buenos Aires giants for Milan in 1999. Although he remained on the books of the Italian club for five years, he spent almost the entire time out on loan in Argentina and Spain. Coloccini joined Newcastle in 2008 for £10.3m, with Pardew making him captain at the start of last season.
Captain Coloccini: Career factfile
Born 22 January, 1982, Cordoba
1998-99 Boca Juniors
2000-04 Loan spells at San Lorenzo, Alaves, Atletico Madrid, Villarreal
2004-08 Deportivo La Coruña
2008- Newcastle United n International career
35 caps for Argentina, one goal
3x Argentina's Primera Division (1998, 1999, 2001)
1x Olympic gold (2004)
1x Championship (2010)