Jonas Gutierrez was told months before his cancer diagnosis he would not be a regular at Newcastle and should look for a new club, former manager Alan Pardew has told a tribunal.
Pardew told an employment panel hearing Gutierrez’s claim for disability discrimination that he wanted to “help” the player to transfer to a new club in the summer of 2013.
At the time, Pardew said he spoke to the 32-year-old, telling the tribunal: “My conversation was a diplomatic conversation, ‘are you looking to move on, is there a club for you, because I don’t see you featuring many times this season’.”
He said the conversation was “instigated” by Gutierrez’s concerns about his place in the team, despite him being a near-constant starter in the first team.
Gutierrez, currently playing for Spanish side Deportivo La Coruna, spent seven seasons with Newcastle after joining the club in 2008 and underwent an operation to remove a tumour in his left testicle in October 2013.
Pardew, who now manages Crystal Palace, said: “For me, the better decision would have been to move him that summer and I think we did everything – but that option didn’t come.”
On several occasions, the former Newcastle head coach said he could not see a place for Gutierrez in his future plans for the squad despite making 71 out of 76 starts in the two seasons to 2013.
He said: “I was very keen to have my own players and most managers in their period like to think they can create a team.
“I viewed this as a long-term project.”
He added: “The way Jonas played didn’t really fit into the mould I wanted to make.
“Not that he wasn’t a good player, but sometimes players don’t always fit the mould.”
Gutierrez, described as a “powerful” dressing room presence by Pardew, has claimed he was “frozen out” of the first team by the club’s hierarchy – which, Gutierrez believes, viewed him as a liability after diagnosis with testicular cancer.
In his evidence to an employment tribunal, the 32-year-old star also accused Newcastle of ensuring he did not make enough appearances to trigger a one-year contract extension.
Gutierrez has alleged that the summer 2013 conversation between him and Pardew never took place, and that the first such chat was in December that year.
But his former manager said on Thursday: “No, he’s not right.”
He added: “I did instruct him in the summer of that campaign that he wasn’t going to feature in my team.”
Pardew said that during the 2013-14 campaign pre-season he had told Gutierrez in a “difficult” conversation that the player would not be a first-team starter.
In his statement the manager said: “I was honest with him and explained that he would not be a regular in my first team for the upcoming season.”
He added: “Jonas appeared to accept my decision and continued to train well.
“However, as expected after a difficult conversation like this, I felt that our previous good relationship deteriorated from this point onwards.”
Pardew was asked why he kept playing Gutierrez as a key member of his squad if he was not to feature in the club’s long-term plans.
The 54-year-old replied: “Why cut my nose off to spite my face? I have 25 players in my squad list, you need every one of them.”
When Pardew was asked about a fifth-year trigger clause in Gutierrez’s contract linked to his appearances, the former Magpies manager said he did not know the detail of every players’ agreements.
He said: “With all players, and this has been true at all my clubs, they all have different clauses, different fees, some appearance fees, some contract-triggered situations.
“I cannot possibly bog myself down knowing those, looking at those.”
Pardew joined Newcastle as head coach in December 2010, and said his first impressions of £43,000-a-week Gutierrez was of “a good professional”, who worked hard in training and had a lot of experience.
But he said Gutierrez was not scoring enough goals or contributing enough assists at the level he would have expected from a left-sided midfielder, while he also wanted to bring in his own players.
In summer 2011, the club were negotiating a new contract with Gutierrez and Lee Charnley, now Newcastle’s managing director, asked Pardew about his future plans for the Argentinian.
The manager told Charnley that Gutierrez was “not likely to be a regular starter in the first team, going forward”, in part because he scored only three goals in the 2010-11 season.
Pardew said he was “surprised” when he then heard the board were offering a five-year contract to the player.
He said: “He had scored only three goals in the season which, for an attacking midfielder, was well below what I would have expected.”
The club eventually signed a four-year deal with Gutierrez, and took an option on a fifth year extension.
Pardew said the low strike-rate continued in the next season which “confirmed the concerns I had”.