An employment tribunal has found that Newcastle United dropped midfielder Jonas Gutierrez because of his cancer diagnosis.
The 32-year-old is now set to receive a huge pay-off from the Magpies - potentially in the region of £2 million, according to BBC Sport - after successfully suing his former employers on the grounds of disability discrimination.
The tribunal also ruled Newcastle made it impossible for Gutierrez, who spent seven years with the Premier League club, to trigger an appearance-based contract extension.
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Gutierrez, according to the Daily Mail, claimed that Newcastle’s billionaire owner Mike Ashley put pressure on managers to drop him because they considered his health to be a “liability” after his testicular cancer diagnosis in October 2013.
The Argentina was loaned to Norwich City in 2014, before joining Deportivo La Coruna last year after being released by the north-east outfit.
Gutierrez told he was released over the phone
Last summer, Gutierrez revealed that John Carver was told he was being released by Newcastle over a phone call.
"John Carver rang me and told me the club weren't going to offer me a new deal," Ryan Taylor, also released by Newcastle last summer, told Sky Sports News. "Then he asked me to pass the phone to Jonas, which was unbelievable."
Gutierrez broke down in tears while giving evidence
During the tribunal, Gutierrez reportedly broke down in tears while giving evidence, explaining how he was forced out of the club following his illness.
The footballer was quoted by the Daily Mail as saying: “From the way I was treated, I understood that the club hierarchy - in particular the club owner Mike Ashley and the club managing director Mr Charnley - were concerned about my cancer diagnosis and were either trying to force me out of the club permanently or to ensure that I would not be selected to play in games which would force Newcastle to extend my contract by one year.
“Due to their concerns about my cancer, I consider that the club then ensured that I would not be selected to start in a sufficient number of matches to trigger the option.
“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.”
Statement from today's ruling
During today’s final hearing, the ruling stated: "Just over two weeks after the claimant returned to the club in November 2013 following his diagnosis and treatment, and at a point when he was match fit and returning to action he was told that he no longer featured in the club's future plans. We conclude that the decision to drop the claimant was because of the claimant's cancer."
After winning the case, Gutierrez took to Twitter to thank the Newcastle United fans for their support.
"I am a geordie thanks newcastle fans for your support. I love The city. I hope WE stay up. Come on The toon. Once a geordie always a geordie," he posted.
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