Jonas Gutierrez says his former Newcastle United team-mates phoned to congratulate him on winning an employment tribunal against the club.
It ruled he was dropped by Newcastle because of his cancer diagnosis, with the 32-year-old suing for about £2m on grounds of disability discrimination.
Gutierrez called the ruling a “relief” but says he “can’t understand” the St James’ Park club’s treatment of him.
“I am so frustrated about that period,” the Argentine told BBC Sportshour.
The tribunal also ruled on Thursday that the club made it impossible for Gutierrez to trigger an appearance-based contract extension.
“I have good pals from my time there,” he said.
“Players I have played a long period with, like Perchy [James Perch], Ryan Taylor, [Dan] Gosling, Robbie Elliott – we were so close and we continue talking sometimes.”
He added: “They know what things were going on. They can’t understand the way [Newcastle] treated me.
“When the court announced, they called me and said congrats because they know what I had to go through.”
‘I want to set a precedent’
Gutierrez, who joined Newcastle from Real Mallorca in 2008, was diagnosed with testicular cancer in October 2013.
The Argentina international sued Newcastle over the way he was treated following his diagnosis and claimed the Premier League club saw him as a liability after he returned from treatment.
Claims of unfavourable treatment and another of harassment related to disability were dismissed.
Gutierrez says he was always “honest” during his seven-year spell at St James’ Park and did not directly blame owner Mike Ashley.
He said: “I don’t want to say it was him.
“I don’t want to speak too much about this, but one who runs the club is Mike Ashley – he is the owner, so he makes the decisions over there.”
During the tribunal, Gutierrez’s mother Monica Montore said she “wanted to take my own life at the club’s door” due to the treatment of her son.
The midfielder says his family found it “tough”, adding “it was as difficult for them as me”.
However, he wants his case to set a precedent for employees, not just footballers, who face similar battles.
“For me, it was the worst period in my life,” he added. “I didn’t deserve that type of treatment.
“It’s important to leave a precedent for the future. No-one can go through this again – not footballers or any employees, that is more important.
“It made me learn a lot about life. Now we’re here I’m really happy about what I’ve been through. To be alive and be healthy is more important for me.”
Newcastle United were contacted for a response and referred to their original statement.
“The tribunal has now given its decision in the case brought against the club by Jonas Gutierrez. It found for him on two of the four heads of claim.
“We recognise that the task facing the tribunal was a difficult one, but we are dismayed by its decision. We will now take time to consider the judgement in full and consult with our legal team to understand the options available to us.”
‘Once a Geordie, always a Geordie’
Newcastle currently sit 19th in the Premier League table and six points from safety, but Gutierrez says he hopes Rafael Benitez’s side can avoid relegation.
“I want them to stay up,” he said. “The city, the fans don’t deserve to go down.
“It is a massive club. The fans are massive and they deserve to stay in the Premier League. They’re in a tough situation, but I say to the fans to be positive, to believe.
“It is for me, the best years in my career. The fans, the city make me feel so at home. Once a Geordie, always a Geordie is something that is totally true.
“Once you play in that shirt you want to support that team.”
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