Newcastle United: How Did the Fabricio Coloccini Situation Come to This?

Dan FitchFeatured ColumnistJanuary 24, 2013

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - JANUARY 02:  Everton player Marouane Fellani (r) is challenged by Fabricio Coloccini during the Barclays Premier League match between Newcastle United and Everton at St James' Park on January 2, 2013 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Stu Forster/Getty Images

No one was in the least bit surprised when Carlos Tevez upped sticks and deserted Manchester City to return to his native Argentina for several months. Tevez had been bleating about wanting a transfer for some time, and his actions seemed in line with his petulant nature.

Fabricio Coloccini doesn't seem to be the sort of character to follow in Tevez's footsteps, yet that's just what he is allegedly threatening to do.

Martin Hardy of The Independent yesterday broke the news that Coloccini has told Newcastle officials that he would not play for Newcastle again, after negotiations to let the player return to Argentina broke down.

There was some Twitter talk that Coloccini was already in Argentina, but the player actually reported for training at Newcastle this morning. What seems certain, though, is that Newcastle face a struggle to persuade their captain to continue playing for them, even in the short term. So how did it get to this stage?

After a tough start to life in England, as Newcastle were relegated in Coloccini's first season in England, the Argentine began to show his worth to the Magpies. He became the lynchpin of the Newcastle defence and a cult hero of the terraces. When the Newcastle captain Kevin Nolan left the club to join West Ham, Coloccini was the natural choice to lead the team.

Only last March, Coloccini pledged his future to Newcastle by signing a new four-year contract.

Not long afterwards, he was named in the PFA team of the season. Things could have scarcely looked more stable for either player or club.

Then recently came the shock news that Coloccini wanted to return to Argentina. He reputedly has an undisclosed personal problem that he needs to solve back home, and his wife and children are said to have already gone back to South America. 

With a move to San Lorenzo having broken down, it looked as if Coloccini would be staying at Newcastle until the end of the season at least. Newcastle certainly need him to.

Mired in the bottom half of the Premier League, Alan Pardew's team are currently in the sort of form that gets clubs relegated. The sort of form that needs an inspirational captain to help turn things round.

Instead it looks as if Coloccini is going to leave the club just when they need him most.

I'm not going to judge him on that decision. I don't know the personal factors motivating him, and without that information, it's hard to say that any individual wouldn't do the same thing. He wouldn't be the first man to have walked out on his job to try and solve a personal problem.

It's hard to blame Newcastle either though. Why would they let someone for whom they paid £10.3 million walk away for nothing? Especially at a time when they really don't need the disruption.

The good news is that Newcastle have already bought Coloccini's replacement. Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa signed for the Magpies this week and shares a lot of the same qualities of Coloccini.

It would be too much to expect Yanga-Mbiwa to walk into the team and play at the same level as Coloccini though.

It took time for the Argentine to adapt to English football, and Newcastle will count themselves lucky if Yanga-Mbiwa can make a similar transition. There is no point expecting miracles.

All of which puts Newcastle in big trouble.

They have won only two of the last Premier League games and are just two points clear of the relegation zone. They need to start winning games fast, but it looks as though they might have to achieve this while their captain is thousands of kilometres away in Argentina.