STEVE BRUCE insists he does not have a problem with Miguel Almiron – but the Newcastle United manager has branded the forward’s agent as “amateurish” and accused him of displaying a staggering level of “disrespect” to the Magpies.

Almiron’s representative, Daniel Campos, hit the headlines in South America at the start of this week when he delivered an incendiary interview in which he suggested his client was all-but-certain to leave Newcastle this summer, claimed he had already held talks with officials at Atletico Madrid and bemoaned the way in which Bruce’s tactics were constraining the Magpies’ attacking efforts.

Bruce intends to speak with Almiron about the comments, although the forward’s delayed return from international duty with Paraguay means the pair had not met face-to-face by the time the Newcastle boss spoke to the press this morning to preview tomorrow’s game with Chelsea.

The Magpies manager is adamant he will not hold Campos’ comments against Almiron, a player he has developed a strong bond with over the last year-and-a-half, but he is clearly deeply unhappy at the events of the last week.

“I couldn’t miss the comments,” said Bruce. “They were that outrageous they bordered on ridiculous. It’s a two-bob agent being amateurish. Why would you put your client in that position? Why would you do that to Almiron, who I’ve had the pleasure of working with for the last 15 months?

“If he came knocking on my door saying there was a problem, then I’d listen. But for an agent, two years in (since Almiron joined), he is probably trying to make a profit again taking him somewhere else. It is hugely disrespectful to all of us, basically, and the club in particular who have served Miguel so well. He’s a great kid, a great pro the lad, but his agent leaves a lot to be desired.

“I’d be outraged if my agent came out with those ridiculous comments. Talk about amateurish and a lack of respect. We all know there are some very good agents out there, but a good one would never put his client in that situation. This club has done unbelievable things for Almiron. And the supporters, the way they have been towards him and the patience they have shown towards him, has been unbelievable too.”

As well as claiming he had already spoken to officials at Atletico Madrid, Campos also linked Almiron with a possible move to Inter Milan and suggested other clubs in the Premier League had expressed an interest in signing the 26-year-old.

It has long been suggested that Almiron’s contract contains a buyout clause that would enable clubs to prise him from St James’ Park against Newcastle’s wishes, but Bruce insists he is not in the least bit concerned by the prospect of the forward being pursued by alternative employers this summer.

“To start with I had a chuckle at the comments, as if to say, ‘Oh my god, they’re that ridiculous am I really reading this?’,” said Bruce. “Then he was on a radio station as well - it’s just unbelievable.

“The two clubs were quite remarkable, what was it, Milan and Atletico Madrid? Are they going to ditch (Luis) Suarez and ditch (Romelu) Lukaku are they? Really, I wonder.”

Of more concern to Bruce is the state that Almiron finds himself in ahead of tomorrow’s lunchtime kick-off, with his return from Paraguay having been delayed because of flight issues.

Despite being suspended for the final game of the international break, Almiron opted to remain in South America rather than make an early return to Tyneside, a stance Bruce understood, even if it did not necessarily suit his own position.

“It was typical Almiron,” said the Newcastle boss. “He wanted to stay even though he couldn’t play . Then, of course, there was the problem with flights. We would have liked him 24 hours earlier, but unfortunately that wasn’t possible with the number of flights around the world.

“He arrived back (on Thursday) night. He was then Covid tested, like all the players are, and I’ve just had a message that that’s okay so at least he will be able to train.”

For all that he has performed creditably on a number of occasions this season, Almiron is yet to score in the Premier League, indeed he has only claimed four league goals in the whole of his Newcastle career.

“He has played 55 times in the Premier League,” said Bruce. “The majority of last year I played him off the front (as) a number ten. He found it difficult to score and create the goals you need in that situation.

“He has been here a year-and-a-half, and yes, we could do with him scoring more. And creating a bit more, yes, of course. But that is the hard part in the Premier League.”