Since his first settle-in season on Tyneside, Fabricio Coloccini has been an integral part of the Newcastle defence and has put himself up there with the best defenders in recent memory to play in the black and white.
That combined with the fact he is now our club captain and playing arguably some of the best football of his career, you would think it is a no-brainer to get him signed to a new contract. I know that is certainly the case in most supporters eyes but do the men with the pen feel the same?
It is no secret that Coloccini’s contract talks have entered that dangerous dragging on stage. A number of talks have been held with both him and his agent without an agreement being reached and naturally some will feel the longer it goes on, the less chance of him signing a new deal.
The media generally revel in scenarios such as this, especially when it comes to the southern snakes and their blind contempt for Newcastle at times, and for the past year or more, every week we have heard a story of interest from another club with nothing of substance materializing.
Given Coloccini’s form, certainly since our return to the Premier League, I have no doubt that there are other clubs looking at him as a possible target, but that by no stretch means that they will offer what we want, he wants to go, or that we want to sell.
The media will spout conjecture on this one until a definitive conclusion is reached one way or the other. The fact is they don’t have a monkey’s uncle what the real story is and will continue to speculate regardless, claiming they are in the know about bids pending for the Argentinian.
The only opinions that matter on this one are, as far as I can see, Alan Pardew, Coloccini himself, his agent and Mike Ashley, albeit in conjunction with the input of Derek Llambias and maybe Lee Charnley, so let’s go through them.
Alan Pardew has publicly stated on numerous occasions his desire to get Coloccini signed up on a new long term deal. He obviously recognizes his importance to the team and may be also aware that potential financial restrictions could make it next to impossible to replace a player of that stature.
At the end of the day, regardless of transfer kitty for improving the squad or any boardroom negotiations, Alan Pardew like any other manager will want to hold onto his best players and Coloccini falls into that category, so he would be out of his mind to want to see him go.
Players don’t generally speak publicly about contracts, unless it’s Joey Barton looking for attention on Twitter in between his many trips to London’s culture spots in a desperate attempt to prove he is not a plonker. Apologies, I digress.
Coloccini however has come out on a couple of occasions over the past year, simply stating he is more than happy on Tyneside, proud to be made Captain and would love to stay, maybe even see out his career at Newcastle, which is obviously great to hear.
That said, this could more than likely be the last contract of his career, definitely the last potentially lucrative one, and as much as he may love playing for Newcastle, his own best interests for the future will take priority and I have no doubt he will want very good money to stay.
We are not in the business of paying top dollar wages these days, and it won’t even be entertained if we are not pulling in significant extra revenue from Europe to balance the books, so as far as I can tell, Coloccini will have to take a drop in wages to sign a new deal, something he may not be willing to do.
Next entry in the equation, the bane of every club and owner in modern football, the agent. I can’t overstate my hatred for these people. Their actions are never in the best interest of the club, and often not even the player outside money. They simply want the biggest payday they can achieve.
Whilst clubs are often scrutinized, Newcastle included, for shady approaches and tactics to try and secure targets without permission, there is a governing body to somewhat control it getting out of hand. Agents to my knowledge don’t have to play by the same rules at all.
In the past year we have witnessed agents flex their unseen muscle in transfer and contract dealings. Rather than keep out of it at the time, Willie McKay decided to add fuel to the fire of dispute between Joey Barton and Mike Ashley, taking every opportunity to stir it up on radio talk shows.
As much as I don’t like Barton, and the fact he even has McKay as his agent says an awful lot about the his character and the company he keeps, I genuinely think there was a chance that Barton could have been reasoned with if dealing directly with the club, even through Alan Pardew.
McKay, whether he thought he was serving the best interests of his client or not, effectively strangled the life out of any resolution being reached between the parties and of course we all know the end result. Maybe that’s what Barton wanted, who knows.
Without veering too much off the beaten track, we also witnessed agents influence deals involving players such as Blaise Matuidi, Mevlut Erdinc, Gervinho, Eric Pieters and Modibo Maiga to name a few. Overall point being that these people can throw a spanner in the works of the most simple of deals.
Finally, we come to the main man, or men, from the clubs point of view. Mike Ashley is the money man all said and done. He has put in place a strict wage structure based around the top players earning approximately £40,000 per week as far as I am aware and will not be held to ransom by anyone, no matter how integral a squad member they may be.
As well as that, Newcastle’s wage structure is also built heavily around a performance related bonus philosophy, something I personally think is a fantastic idea if implemented correctly but it does potentially have it’s downfalls.
We as a club are almost leading the pack in terms of this type of structure, and I believe many clubs will follow suit in the coming years, but for now it is a rarity at most clubs. Players are generally paid a fixed salary with the only bonuses being for such things as goals, assists or appearances for those who are seen to be injury prone.
Although extremely cost effective for the club and something that should be seen as a motivator for players, and not a problem to them if they believe in their ability and set goals are realistically achievable, players can be guaranteed that extra bit regardless of how well they or their team perform if they go elsewhere.
I would like to think Coloccini is the type of player not solely motivated by money, he honestly doesn’t seem like the type, but you never know, and it does have a knock on effect and complicate things somewhat. Less agents fees and potential loss of earnings for the player among other things.
Anyway, wage structure analysis aside, based on past experience there is another element which comes into play. Ashley is a fairly ruthless businessman, as is Derek Llambias and will not be strong-armed under any circumstances. Player power is a thing of the past at Newcastle.
Above all else, they want value for money, paying the lowest wage possible and having an option to sell on when they feel is the optimum opportunity to maximize revenue from the sale. When it comes to the latter, this could spell trouble when it comes to Coloccini.
Fabricio has just turned 30. He is no spring chicken but has a few good years playing time in him yet at the top level. However, in terms of his market value, it probably won’t be any higher than it is right now, in fact could fall significantly over the next few years.
This leaves the board in a difficult situation as it did in the recent past with Kevin Nolan. Although I think it was the right decision in the end, he did come off the back of a very productive season, top scorer and was also our captain, but five years at the money he wanted was not acceptable in Ashley’s eyes.
As Alan Pardew himself even said shortly after Nolan moved on, it was a situation where we could end up two years into his contract and he won’t be getting into the first team and on that basis it doesn’t make sense to have a player bench-warming at best while being a top earner at the club.
Thankfully we are seeing the end of the big money bench-warmers at the club. The era of the likes of Geremi chilling in his flip-flops watching his bank balance soar is all but dead and Alan Smith being out of contract in the summer should put it to bed once and for all, but will Coloccini be another casualty in this regard?
With the exception of a handful of appearances at most over the past two years, he has been immense for us and on face value is as deserving of a new deal as anyone, but unfortunately it is not that simple in the eyes of those with the power.
Mike Ashley may well have the same concerns as he did when it came to Nolan, and feel that now is the right time to sell based on the fact that Coloccini’s legs may go in two or three years, rendering him virtually worthless but still being a top earner.
I personally don’t see him taking that much of a nosedive, but despite our collective love for the curly headed hero, I do understand how the deal can be complicated on many levels.
A lot has to be taken into account by both club and player, and even though Alan Pardew and Coloccini sing from the same hymn sheet in terms of wanting to be here in future, all sentiment aside, is it what’s best for the club long term?
I guess as things stand, my opinion would be a definitive yes, get him signed up no matter what, but if we happened to sign two top centre backs in their mid-twenties in the summer, would I still feel that way? I’m not so sure.
As always, all comments and insight appreciated.