Former Newcastle United manager John Carver has said telling Jonas Gutierrez he did not have a future at the club "tugged on the heartstrings" - but maintained the decision was made for footballing reasons.
The Argentine midfielder claims he was "frozen out" of the club following a cancer diagnosis and said the Magpies "ensured" he did not start enough games to trigger an automatic extension clause in his contract.
But Carver, who took the reins of the club in January 2015 after the departure of Alan Pardew, said he was not pressured to drop Gutierrez from the team and decided to let him go to make way for improvements to the squad.
He told a tribunal in Birmingham: "My opinion was that Jonas should not be offered a new contract as there were better players available to take the club forward.
"It tugged on the heartstrings to be honest, but it was a footballing decision. I wanted to take the club forward."
Gutierrez was told at the end of the 2014/15 season that his contract was not being renewed through a phone call, with Carver saying he would have preferred to have conducted the conversation face to face.
The 32-year-old, who now plays for Spanish side Deportivo de La Coruna, had signed for the Magpies in 2008 and was awarded a new four-year deal in 2011 worth around £40,000 a week.
The contract would have been extended for a year if the player started 80 games between 2011 and 2015.
The player, who started 78 games and made five appearances as a substitute during this period, was a key part of the team during the end of the 2014/15 season, the tribunal heard.
Carver said Gutierrez was "excellent" and "wrote his own fairytale" during the last game of the campaign against West Ham, which confirmed the side would not be relegated.
Martin Budworth, on behalf of Gutierrez, said: "There was never going to be a fairytale ending, the club managed this to make sure he would never trigger the clause."
Carver denied the club ever interfered with team selection, saying: "I am nobody's puppet. I wanted this job and was going to do it my way."
He added: "I confirm that the board played no role whatsoever in my decisions regarding first-team selection.
"The board were not even made aware of my thoughts on team selection until a couple of hours before the match."
Carver said the fact Newcastle United were due to sign attacking midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum from Dutch side PSV Eindhoven played a part in the decision to release Gutierrez over the summer.
He said it was felt the side needed more firepower in the midfield and that Gutierrez "did not do that enough".
He added: "If Jonas did have concerns that the club was treating him unfairly because of misconceptions it had about his cancer, I am very disappointed that he never raised this with me, and he had the opportunity to do so at the time.
"My mother passed away from cancer four years ago, and I was particularly sensitive to Jonas's situation."