For the last six years, Fabricio Coloccini has been an exemplary servant in the Newcastle United first team. But amidst mounting speculation that the defender is looking to make a move back to his home country, there are plenty of reasons why a return to Argentina could be his best option.
The rumours are nothing new. Towards the end of last year, Coloccini left himself open to the possibility of moving back to the Primera Division. His top priority, as stated in an interview to Ole covered by The Guardian's Louise Taylor, would be a return to former club and current Argentine champions San Lorenzo:
You never know what can happen in football
I have to speak the truth; I would like to return as soon as possible. In January we did all we could for a possible return to San Lorenzo but I always made it clear that Newcastle would have the last word. The club have invested a lot in me and I must show respect towards them.
The truth is I don't want to get my hopes up. Hopefully it will be as soon as possible though.
The Albiceleste international of course stayed put at St. James Park following those declarations, electing to fight through what has been a difficult season for the North-east giants. But Magpies officials are already preparing themselves for another battle to keep their influential star in the next transfer window.
“I’m not worried about it at this stage, but obviously it is a conversation that I will have with Colo and we will pick the right decision for the club," manager Alan Pardew admitted in a recent interview, covered by Simon Bird of The Mirror. The boss' words hardly bode well for Coloccini's continuity, even though he expressed a wish for his defensive star to stay.
“What might be right for him might not be right for the club, but I am hoping we both make the same decision because I want him to stay. He is an essential part of this team, one of my most important players."
At 32, the advantages of a possible homecoming are clear to see. Plenty of ageing European stars have made a successful transition back to Argentina, prolonging their careers and enjoying the acclaim of local crowds as they lead clubs to glory.
Creative geniuses Juan Roman Riquelme and Juan Sebastian Veron are perhaps the best-known examples in recent years. Riquelme moved back to Boca Juniors after a mixed spell in Spain in 2007, and was almost instantly rewarded.
A new title in that year's Copa Libertadores proved that the playmaker was right to try his hand once more in the Bombonera, and still playing seven years later Roman is well-established as one of the club's greatest players in history.
Veron, who starred with the likes of Lazio, Sampdoria, Manchester United and Chelsea in Europe, made possible an even greater impact. His emotional return to Estudiantes, the La Plata club touched both by himself and father Juan Ramon in difference spells, has coincided with two league titles and a Copa Libertadores as the Pincha re-established themselves as one of Argentina's premier institutions.
Now 39 and still featuring for the first team after one abortive attempt at retirement, La Brujita flies the flag for the homecomers. But there are plenty more examples: Gabriel Heinze has revitalised the Newell's defence since going back to Rosario, while Maxi Rodriguez's form with the Lepra has pushed him into an almost inevitable World Cup place at the ripe old age of 33.
The lesson for Coloccini could not be clearer: Give your best in local football, and the national team is still well within reach. A series of injuries has led to a cooling of interest from coach Alejandro Sabella, after muscling his way into the squad for the last World Cup qualifier against Uruguay.
The door, however, is far from being shut on the Cordoba native.
The defender still has some of his best years ahead. At 32 he is not particularly old for a centre-back, and it is his intelligence and perception that makes him such a tricky customer for forwards rather than his outstanding physical attributes.
From Riquelme to Heinze, and from Veron to Maxi, countless Argentine stars have seen their careers enter an Indian summer thanks to their decision to head back home. If Coloccini can secure a place in a San Lorenzo side consistently fighting for the top places in the Primera Division, the defender could still have a bright future both in local and international football.
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