Newcastle have described as “ludicrous” claims by former midfielder Jonas Gutierrez that he was deliberately dropped so the club could release him.
Summing up a disability discrimination tribunal, Newcastle’s lawyer, Sean Jones QC, said the club “still had respect and affection” for Gutierrez.
But he said there were “holes” in the Argentine’s case.
In response, Gutierrez’s lawyer, Martin Budworth, said Newcastle’s witnesses had given “knowingly untrue evidence”.
A decision and announcement on the outcome of the case could take about a month.
‘What was at stake was the survival of the club’
Gutierrez, 32, is suing Newcastle over the way he was treated following his cancer diagnosis in October 2013.
The Deportivo La Coruna player, who was released by Newcastle in May 2015, claims the Premier League club saw him as a liability after he returned from treatment for testicular cancer.
He also alleges he was not selected for some of the second half of the 2014-15 season, when Newcastle avoided relegation on the final day of the campaign, so it would not trigger an automatic one-year contract extension.
“It’s plainly ludicrous to suggest that we would manage his selection to avoid a £2.5m extension cost when what was at stake was the survival of the club,” Jones QC told the tribunal.
“The cost of relegation to the club would have been at least £30m, with an ongoing impact of around £80m if they didn’t bounce back.
“It would have been a blow to Newcastle as a city, for their fans, and would have resulted in the termination of contracts for several of his colleagues and other people.
“It would have been a huge hammer blow to their finances.”
Gutierrez previously said he was not suing the club for the money, but because the way he had been treated by the club was not right.
However, Jones QC added there was dispute over the timeline of Gutierrez’s case.
Gutierrez claims his discrimination began when he was told he should look for another club shortly after he returned from his first round of cancer treatment at the end of 2013.
But Jones QC reminded the tribunal that former manager Alan Pardew had said he had let Gutierrez know he was no longer part of the first-team plans in the summer of 2013 and better players had arrived at the club.
‘Newcastle do not have evidence’
In his closing remarks, Budworth said Newcastle had failed to call a number of witnesses, including owner Mike Ashley, and doctors who treated Gutierrez because the club was “self-serving”.
He also alleged that Pardew had given “suspicious evidence” and that his account had been “tailored” to fit the club’s versions of events.
Budworth said: “The respondent (Newcastle) has preferred to help itself, rather than the tribunal.”
He added it was unfortunate there was a conflict over when Gutierrez was told to find another club and there was no evidence from Pardew or the club’s hierarchy.
“There’s not a single piece of paper that hints of any activity in the summer of 2013, nobody was emailed,” he said. “Even if the slate is clean, they do not have evidence. There are no documents.”
Budworth described the club’s “management” of Gutierrez’s appearances in the closing weeks of his contract as “cynical” and said it was not just a “cruel coincidence” he was urged to look for a new club just a couple of weeks after coming back from his first diagnosis.