Premier League: Former Newcastle midfielder Jonas Gutierrez claims club stopped him playing to avoid triggering contract extension
Former Newcastle midfielder Jonas Gutierrez claims the club deliberately did not start him in matches so they could release him after cancer treatment.
The 32-year-old was giving evidence on the first day of an employment tribunal, and is suing the club for in the region of £2m over disability discrimination after he was diagnosed with testicular cancer in October 2013.
He was released in May 2015, and made his final appearance for the club against West Ham on the final day of the season, scoring in a 2-0 win.
However, he says he was left out of the team until he could no longer trigger an extension clause in his contract.
Gutierrez' says that his contract at the club, a four year deal signed in 2011, included a clause that if he played 80 Premier League games in that time, he would get year extension.
However, he says then temporary boss John Carver waited until he could not hit his 80-game target before starting him in the final five matches of the campaign.
In a witness statement presented to the tribunal in Birmingham, Gutierrez said: "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.
"In late April 2015 I was told the club may consider offering me a new playing contract but would only consider this at the end of the season.
"However, I knew by this stage the club had taken steps to ensure the automatic option in the contract was not triggered. I found it difficult to believe that they would in any event offer me a new contract."
A firm favourite among Newcastle fans, Gutierrez says that during his treatment there was little support from his manager at the time Alan Pardew, or any club officials.
"During my chemotherapy treatment, neither the manager, Alan Pardew, nor any club directors contacted me to see how I was feeling or to congratulate me on my recovery," he said.
"This was incredibly disappointing after everything I had done for the club."
The tribunal is expected to last for 10 days, with evidence from Pardew and Carver to follow.