Former Newcastle winger Jonas Gutierrez has claimed that he was "frozen out" of his former club, not only in spite of but because of his cancer treatment.
In an emotional statement made to a tribunal hearing his claim for disability discrimination, as per the Shields Gazette, the Argentine insists the club viewed him as a liability after his treatment and they also took steps to ensure that he did not play enough games to trigger a contract extension.
The fan favourite scored a goal on the last day of last season that confirmed Newcastle would remain in the Premier League, but the good feeling did not last for long as it became clear that Gutierrez's contract would not be extended beyond the summer.
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The 32-year-old, now playing for Spanish side Deportivo la Coruna, underwent an operation to remove a tumour from his left testicle in 2013. But after he returned to full fitness he was told in a meeting with former boss Alan Pardew that he did not feature in Newcastle's plans and was free to join another club.
"This was the first time I - or any of my representatives - had been notified of this and came as a great shock, so soon after my cancer treatment," he said, describing the meeting.
"I was very shocked by the club's sudden change of heart about me, particularly as I had played in 194 games for the club at this point and was one of the key first-team players."
For a player to be told that he is no longer part of first-team plans is nothing too unusual. But for one who is heavily involved in the side and who still has over 18 months left on his contract to be told he is free to talk to other clubs is strange indeed.
And Gutierrez believes that there is little doubt over what made Newcastle change their minds on the player - his cancer treatment.
"I believe that the reason for this was due to my cancer diagnosis and very recent operation to remove the tumour," he continued.
"I think they feared my illness would mean that I could no longer play at the highest level and they considered me to be a liability rather than an asset to the club.
"I got the impression that they thought I couldn't be the same player again after such an illness, or that I would be bound to have lingering effects, other episodes of illness off the back of it.
"This caused me a lot of distress, given my hard work and commitment for the club in the preceding five-and-a-half years."
Gutierrez is now said to be seeking recompense from Newcastle, who would have been forced into extending his £40,000-per-week contract had he started another two games before the end of last season.
To be awarded the extension Gutierrez needed to have started 80 games, but only made 78 starts and five substitute appearances, something which he feels that the club engineered so they would not have to pay him for another year.
"It is notable that during my chemotherapy treatment, neither the manager, Alan Pardew, or any club directors contacted me to see how I was feeling or to congratulate me on my recovery," he added.
"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."
Gutierrez also claims that he was asked to train with Newcastle's Under-21 side as a result of his condition.
"I was an established senior, international player and had been a near-guaranteed first-team starter until my cancer diagnosis," he went on to say.
"I felt that I was being frozen out of the first-team picture as a consequence of my cancer, which was incredibly upsetting at a time when the club could and should have been supporting me and allowing me to train alongside my first team colleagues.
"As an established first team, international player, being made to train and play with the Under-21 squad left me feeling humiliated and degraded both as a professional player and as a human being.
"From the way I was treated, I understood that the club hierarchy - in particular the club owner Mike Ashley and the managing director Lee Charnley - were concerned about my cancer diagnosis, and were either trying to force me out of the club permanently, or if this was not possible, to ensure that I would not be selected to play in games which would force Newcastle to extend my contract by one year.
"I believe that pressure was placed on Mr Pardew, as he admitted to me, and John Carver to encourage me to leave the club in late 2013 or to at least ensure that the contract was not automatically extended in the 2014/15 season."
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