Jonas Gutierrez has always had fans in high places.
During his time as Argentina manager, Diego Maradona said Gutierrez’s name was the first on his teamsheet, along with Lionel Messi and Javier Mascherano.
That was high praise indeed from the man many hail as the world’s best-ever player, despite Maradona’s obvious faults.
Another whose opinion carries great weight is Messi, who in 2010 said: “The Premier League have not seen it yet but Jonas is one of the best players in the league.
“I know you guys have Rooney, Fabregas, Torres and many more stars – but Jonas is as good as any of them.
“He can fire Newcastle to a top-six finish and win the player of the season award above names like Rooney.”
Even Gutierrez’s biggest fans would have to concede Messi – and Maradona, for that matter – was talking nonsense.
However, he has been an excellent servant for Newcastle United.
Brought in from Real Mallorca in 2008, he immediately became a fans’ favourite, with a tireless debut performance at Manchester United ensuring he started on the front foot.
He still had much adapting to do, though, and a chaotic campaign – which included the managerial reigns of Kevin Keegan, Joe Kinnear, Chris Hughton and Alan Shearer – eventually led to relegation.
Gutierrez had still done enough to win a place in the hearts of many fans, but he started the following campaign in distinctly average form.
Newcastle adapted to life in the Championship well, with the likes of Kevin Nolan, Shola Ameobi and Fabricio Coloccini helping them through the early months, but Gutierrez too often went missing in games.
This was an Argentina international, still at the forefront of their plans for the forthcoming World Cup. The Championship should have been child’s play for him.
Eventually, he started to come good after forming a formidable left-side partnership with fellow Spanish speaker Jose Enrique.
He scored a spectacular first goal for the club against Peterborough United after a mazy run during which he beat five players, although he refused to celebrate with his trademark Spiderman mask in protest at rumours which had circulated about his future.
Gutierrez wanted to be at Newcastle – unlike many of the others who had jumped ship the previous summer – and began to show his true worth.
He was a key member of the side which swept its way to the Championship title and back into the Premier League, and for that, he should always be fondly remembered on Tyneside.
Back in the Premier League, his partnership with Enrique continued to flourish, and although he was by no means the star man, Gutierrez had established himself as a firm favourite.
He had his limitations, such as his lack of end product at times, but was an invaluable member of the team due to his ability to link up with Enrique, dribble the team out of danger, win fouls and drift inside onto his right foot when needed.
He never did live up to those heights Messi predicted – in fact, he never got near.
However, Gutierrez provided some lasting memories in black and white, even if his standards slipped alarmingly as the 2012-13 season spiralled out of control.
It became clear he no longer merited a regular starting place, and at the start of the 2013-14 campaign, he lost his spot in the side.
However, he has deserved better than the treatment he has been given in the last 12 months.
Whispers about a clause in his contract entitling him to a year’s extension if he plays a small number of games refuse to go away, and Gutierrez got nowhere near the first-team last season before being loaned out to Norwich City.
He made no impact whatsoever at Carrow Road in an injury-hit spell which eventually led to Norwich’s relegation, and now he has returned to Tyneside, it’s easy to forget he is still a Newcastle player.
Gutierrez is clearly not in Alan Pardew’s plans, but he still has a value. Surely he could be a decent squad member?
If there is a clause in his deal entitling him to another year at St James’s Park if he plays x number of games, surely it can be renegotiated?
Gutierrez is not on Newcastle’s pre-season tour of New Zealand, not working at the training ground and not even taking part in the behind-closed-doors friendlies the likes of Hatem Ben Arfa, Gabriel Obertan and Gael Bigirimana have been reduced to.
The winger is free to find a new club, and is simply a forgotten man at Newcastle.
It is a real shame, even if his best days are well behind him, and many would say he flattered to deceive even when he was at his peak.
Gutierrez ‘gets’ Newcastle, and always has.
As Messi said in 2010, “Gutierrez told me during the World Cup that, as long as Newcastle stay in the top-flight, he would like to finish his career there.”
He is one of the rare brand of overseas players who made Newcastle their home, and grew to love the place, the club and the people.
Whatever his limitations, he could never be accused of not giving his all, and should be remembered fondly.
He deserved a more fitting ending than this, reduced to a non-playing, non-training member of staff.
Gutierrez is free to find a new club, but he should still have one at Newcastle, at least until the right side comes along.
If possible, United should get rid of the clause he is close to triggering. Gutierrez may be yesterday’s man, but he does not deserve to be an outcast.