Argentine midfielder Jonas Gutierrez has alleged that the struggling Premier League club considered him a liability following his diagnosis with testicular cancer in 2013.
The midfielder underwent an operation in October of that year to remove a tumour. Just two months later, in December 2013, then manager and current Crystal Palace boss Alan Pardew told the Argentine that he was surplus to requirements at St. James’ Park. Gutierrez is currently suing the club for discrimination, according to a BBC article published today.
The 32-year-old eventually left the club in 2015, but he alleges that the club manufactured his departure. The contract signed between Gutierrez and the club in 2011 stipulated that he would be awarded an automatic 12-month extension to his contract if he were to make 80 starts for the club between 2011 and 2015. Gutierrez left the club in 2015 having made 78 starts and five appearances off the bench.
Gutierrez had been at the club since 2008 and made 187 appearances, scoring eleven goals. The 150 appearances made in the Premier League leave him 14th overall in Newcastle’s all-time Premier League appearances.
The ex-Mallorca man alleges that the meeting which took place in December 2013 was the first time he had been notified of his status within the club.
Speaking at the employment tribunal, through a Spanish interpreter, Gutierrez said (via the BBC):
“I believe that the reason for this was due to my cancer diagnosis and very recent operation to remove the tumour, as I had clearly been a crucial part of Newcastle’s first team lineup to this point.
“During my chemotherapy treatment, neither the manager, Alan Pardew, nor any club directors contacted me to see how I was feeling or to congratulate me on my recovery.
“This was incredibly disappointing after everything I had done for the club.”
Pardew was quick to deny that the decision to drop Gutierrez from the club’s plans was his own.
In an excerpt from an article on Talksport‘s website, Gutierrez said:
“Shortly after my return to the club from chemotherapy, I was called into Mr Pardew’s office.
“Mr Pardew apologised for the way he had treated me in December 2013, when he told me I was not wanted by the club any longer but he said that this was not his decision.
“I understood by this that the decision was actually that of the club’s owner, Mike Ashley.”
Ashley, the founder of sports goods company Sports Direct and Britain’s 15th richest man, has long been unpopular at Newcastle.
The 51-year-old also recently admitted in an interview with the Daily Mirror that he “regrets” buying the club. While being cross examined by Sean Jones, the club’s lawyer, Gutierrez was accused of being “just in it for the money” (via The Guardian).
Gutierrez went on to criticise Newcastle’s team doctor, Paul Catterson. The Argentine midfielder claims to have approached the team doctor on several occasions with concern. Catterson dismissed Gutierrez’s concerns as “nothing serious”. It was not until six months later that Catterson sent Gutierrez for a scan, after which doctors diagnosed him with a tumour on his left testicle. Uneasy at the length of time it took doctors in the UK to diagnose his illness, Gutierrez sought medical treatment at home in Argentina. After two weeks of treatment in 2013, Gutierrez returned to play for Newcastle in November of that year.
Gutierrez is pursuing a claim against the club under the 2010 Equality Act. This act makes it unlawful for any business to discriminate against an employee based on a mental or physical disability.
Dáire O’Driscoll, Pundit Arena