ALAN Pardew has insisted that Jonas Gutierrez remains a key member of his Newcastle United squad – after it was claimed he was in limbo because of a clause in his contract.
The winger is fit and available for selection after returning from a spell of leave in his native Argentina.
Gutierrez – who also had a spell on the sidelines with a hamstring injury early in the season – has played just 63 minutes of football this campaign.
And the long-serving player told the Gazette last week that he was training hard in a bid to return to Premier League action after turning out for the club’s Under-21 side earlier this month.
It was reported yesterday that Gutierrez would be entitled to a new deal if he makes a certain number of appearances.
United manager Pardew, however, says Gutierrez, under contract at St James’s Park until the summer of 2015, hasn’t been frozen out of his first-team squad.
“Jonas is still under contract here – he’s part of our group,” Pardew told the Gazette.
Gutierrez had a hand in all four of Newcastle’s goals in the club’s 4-1 Under-21 Premier League win over Norwich City earlier this month.
Speaking after the game, the 30-year-old said: “I feel fit.
“The most important thing for me now is to train hard and to wait. I try to be 100 per cent to fight for a place.”
Asked what he had to do to win his place back, he added: “That is a question for the manager.”
Gutierrez – who has made 195 appearances for United since joining from Real Mallorca in the summer of 2008 – could be involved in Saturday’s third-round FA Cup tie against Cardiff City.
The Argentina international was on the bench for the club’s recent win over Manchester United at Old Trafford.
UPDATE: Jonas Gutierrez has been named in Newcastle’s squad as an over-age player for tonight’s home Under-21 Premier League Cup tie against Leicester City (7pm kick-off).
Meanwhile, it has been reported that United’s Gabriel Obertan left St James’s Park an hour before kick-off against Arsenal yesterday.
Obertan, a substitute in recent weeks, didn’t make the bench for the game, which was won 1-0 by the visitors.