Steve McClaren has hailed Fabricio Coloccini as his “signing of the summer” after revealing just how close Newcastle were to losing their captain.
The head coach was almost resigned to losing the 33-year-old, with offers on the table from elsewhere, until a contract extension was agreed to keep him at St James’s Park.
They’ve done that, and deep down, I think he always wanted to finish his career at Newcastle.
Coloccini – who has endured a difficult start to the new campaign – was outstanding in the goalless draw against Manchester United at Old Trafford.
And McClaren admits he was delighted Coloccini agreed to stay until the summer of 2017 – given none of his possible replacements matched up.
“There was a point in the summer where we thought he (Coloccini) might well be going. Most definitely,” revealed McClaren.
“There were offers on the table, but the club has done great to address that situation and keep him.
“We said, ‘Sort him out, and get him back on board’.
“They’ve done that, and deep down, I think he always wanted to finish his career at Newcastle.
“I’m pleased he performed like he did.
“There’s been a lot of talk about signings this summer, but for me, that (Coloccini) was the best one.
“We looked around at various defenders when his position was in doubt, but we quickly decided that none of them matched up.
“I quickly said, ‘Look, we need to get him back on board’ and the club has done that.
“I think his relationship with the club and the seven years he’d already had here were important.
“He’s got a real affinity with the club, and I think he just wanted to finish his career here.
“Why not? We’ve come in, and he’s probably had a little look at how we’ve been operating in the first three or four weeks too.
“He’s obviously been happy with what he’s seen, but it was also about the club rewarding him, and that’s what they’ve done.”
McClaren was also quick to praise the “heroic” defending at Old Trafford from the rest of his backline – including keeper Tim Krul.
But he is still looking for another 20 per cent from his players.
McClaren added: “I thought along with (Steven) Taylor, he (Coloccini) was excellent. I also thought (Chancel) Mbemba was superb.
“He’s not a right-back, but he did a gallant job there.
“That back four – five with Tim Krul behind – is going to be important for us.
“You don’t come to Old Trafford and get a result if you don’t defend well, and that’s what we did.
“We conceded two goals against Southampton and two more against Swansea, albeit with ten men, so it was important to keep a clean sheet.
“I thought we were excellent and that performance is a real platform.
“You look at our players and think they’re still 20 per cent or so down on where they’ll eventually be.
“I look around our squad and think, ‘Well he could be sharper, and he could be sharper’.
“It was a short pre-season and an early start, and that’s what you’re going to get.”