Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew has backed captain Fabricio Coloccini to rediscover top form in the Premier League next season.
The Argentinian started 27 times in the top flight this term but the 32-year-old has struggled with injuries and form in the past 18 months.
Coloccini's future at St James' Park has often been called into the question, with the centre-back previously revealing his intention to return to his homeland.
However, Coloccini last month insisted he will remain on Tyneside, and Pardew is confident he will return to a high standard, and spoke glowingly of his leadership qualities.
"I think that core leadership of having Colo (Coloccini) here is important," Pardew is quoted as saying by The Sunderland Echo.
"Take me out of the equation, you've got (owner) Mike (Ashley), 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."
Newcastle finished 10th in the Premier League but Pardew faced a backlash from supporters towards the end of the campaign with the team winning just once in the last eight matches.comments