As much a we like to romanticize players, clubs, stadiums and memories, at its core, professional soccer is a business, one that often counts profits as closely as points and has its eyes on the future, rather than sentimentality. The business often leaves clubs making decisions that they may not want to make but offers them few preferable options.
The trick to being a professional sports fan who doesn’t spend half of each day angry or heartbroken is to understand that duality. But even with a semi-jaded mindset, some club moves make you wish for a few more fairy tale endings.
Two years after being diagnosed with testicular cancer, five months after returning to play and five days after he scored a goal that helped his team stay in the English Premier League for another year, Jonás Gutiérrez (along with Ryan Taylor) has been released by Newcastle United.
Newcastle’s managing director Lee Charnley released this statement:
“Ryan and Jonas have both contributed significantly to Newcastle United over a number of years and on behalf of the Board, I would like to place on record our sincere thanks to both players for the excellent service they have given the club.
It was a great pleasure to see Ryan and Jonas come back into the team in recent weeks and compete at the highest level after the injury and illness battles they have had to overcome. To come through those difficult periods with such strength and dignity will have given hope and inspiration to many and it is clear that our supporters have a deep connection and affection for both players, as does everyone associated with the club.”
Gutiérrez took to social media this afternoon to show his appreciation to Magpies fans who supported him on his road to recovery.
In defense of professional sports’ cold interior, Gutiérrez is 31 years old, hasn’t been able to contribute much (for obvious reasons) to the club, and there are many unavoidable changes necessary if Newcastle hopes to avoid the same drama it endured at the end of this season.
Still, you’d have to be a monster not to feel something for Gutiérrez and his fans. The news of his release was apparently a surprise. These were the words he offered about Newcastle following Sunday’s 2-0 win over West Ham:
“All the love they showed to me through my illness. Newcastle were fantastic with me and with the team.To be honest they don’t deserve to have this problem, to be in this situation now.”
This tweet is from today:
Things can change quickly in sports, but realistically, the decision to cut Gutiérrez was probably made some weeks, or even months, ago. The cynic in me wonders if he would have been dropped a long time ago, but with a relegation fight underway and fans already protesting owner Mike Ashley, the club didn’t think it could withstand another hit to its relationship with supporters.
Regardless of the guarantee of another year in the Premier League, Newcastle wasn’t immune from fan backlash.
Jonás Gutiérrez’s time at Newcastle is over, but judging by his fight to return to the game after cancer, his fans will probably see him play again.