The 'surprising' Newcastle United captain who quietly changed minds on Tyneside

When he was good, he was very, very good.

Fabricio Coloccini won’t go down as one of Newcastle United’s all-time greats, but he had a great career at the club.

Coloccini, never a man of many words during his time on Tyneside, revealed his retirement in a lengthy post on Instagram.

“I was immersed in a dream for 22 years that has given me much more than I imagined,” said Coloccini. “I want to tell you that I fulfilled all my dreams as a football player, was happy during this journey which I would have never wanted to end.

"Thank you to the 10 clubs I played for, for giving me the opportunity to wear their prestigious shirts. Thanks to my colleagues, friends, family, fans for the unconditional support.”

Coloccini’s news was greeted warmly on a chilly Tyneside, but his career at Newcastle didn’t have the best of starts. Recruited above then-manager Kevin Keegan’s head in the summer of 2008, he struggled to adjust to the physicality and intensity of Premier League football.

The team, of course, also struggled, and that season ended in relegation.

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Former Newcastle United captain Fabricio Coloccini.

Coloccini’s career at St James’s Park looked to be all but over after one season in England, as he looked even less suited to the rigours of Championship football.

Yet Coloccini stayed – and prospered. The former Argentina international found his feet in English football’s second tier. Coloccini was the cool head the club at the back needed, though, occasionally, the red mist descended.

Coloccini was immaculate at the back during the club’s Championship-winning campaign. He backed up his technical ability and vision with the physicality needed in England football, and he looked at ease when the club return to the top flight.

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"From that season in the Championship, he was a different class – it was great playing alongside him,” said former defensive partner Steven Taylor.

Fabricio Coloccini celerates a goal in 2015.

When Kevin Nolan left in the summer of 2011, then-manager Alan Pardew, maybe surprisingly, handed Coloccini the captain’s armband.

“He'll lead the team in a different manner to Kevin, but his professionalism, attitude, application and fantastic character made him the stand-out candidate,” said Pardew.

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Pardew was right. Coloccini, close to Jonas Gutierrez and Jose Enrique, was a very different captain. He was less vocal, but no less effective in his own way. Coloccini led by example, and let his feet (and head) do the talking.

That season, Coloccini led the club to a fifth-placed finish. He became a fans’ favourite, and his name was sung every week.

However, Coloccini’s relationship with supporters became a little strained in his final few seasons by persistent speculation about a move to San Lorenzo in his Argentina, though he reaffirmed his commitment to Newcastle in May 2014.

“I had personal problems,” said Coloccini. “Sometimes it’s tough. You have to decide between the problems and the work. Now it’s finished, and next season I will be here.”

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Coloccini eventually joined San Lorenzo in 2016. However, when fans think about Coloccini now, they think don’t think about an unsettled player edging towards the exit door, they think about a classy defender who was rarely unsettled on the pitch.

United could do with a player like him now.

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