ALAN Pardew is backing Newcastle United captain Fabricio Coloccini to return to his commanding best next season.
Coloccini has struggled for form and fitness over the past two years.
And the Argentinian defender has also endured what he described as a “personal problem”.
But the 32-year-old ended talk of a move away from St James’s Park by committing his future to Newcastle earlier this month.
Coloccini said: “For sure, I’m going to here. I had personal problems – now it’s finished.”
Manager Pardew handed Coloccini the captain’s armband after Kevin Nolan left for West Ham three years ago.
While Coloccini Is not as vocal as Nolan – on and off the pitch – Pardew feels the Argentina international’s footballing ability and leadership are invaluable to the Magpies.
“I think that core leadership of having Colo here is important,” Pardew said.
“Take me out of the equation, you’ve got Mike (Ashley, Newcastle’s owner), you’ve got (managing director) Lee Charnley and you’ve got Colo.
“That’s direct leadership through the club, and I think that’s important.
“He is our captain, and he’s had to do a tough job this year when we’ve felt down and been a bit negative with ourselves.
“He’s been important. We all know if he plays like he did against Cardiff – and gets back to that level – we’ve got a top player.”
While Coloccini is set to stay at Newcastle, the future of fellow centre-half Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa is not as certain, with reports in France linking him with a move back to his homeland.
Yanga-Mbiwa has struggled to hold down a regular place in the Newcastle side since his £6.8million move from Montpellier 18 months ago.
The Frenchman, 24, has been used at right-back and left-back by Pardew.