NEWCASTLE UNITED managing director Lee Charnley has been charged with the task of pushing through four potential transfers as Rafael Benitez looks to step up his summer squad-building programme.

Having agreed to remain in his role after a post-season meeting with Magpies owner Mike Ashley, Benitez has held a number of discussions with Charnley and key members of his scouting team.

The £6.2m purchase of winger Christian Atsu was completed within days of the former Chelsea youngster completing his loan deal at St James’ Park, but Benitez is keen to make further early progress as he looks to prepare his side for August’s return to the Premier League.

Having discussed a number of potential options, Newcastle’s recruitment team have settled on four key targets, and Charnley now finds himself responsible for pushing the deals through.

Goalkeeper Willy Caballero, defender Florian Lejeune and forward Tammy Abraham are understood to be three of the players currently being pursued, while a fourth midfield target also features prominently on Newcastle’s hit list.

The Magpies’ interest in Caballero reflects a growing acceptance that it will be extremely difficult to persuade Napoli to sell Pepe Reina despite the goalkeeper’s interest in a possible move to Tyneside.

Consett Stanley Advertiser:


Talks with Napoli officials have failed to produce a successful resolution, and the St James’ Park hierarchy have reluctantly agreed to shelve their interest in Reina unless his current employers alter their approach.

With doubts over the future of Tim Krul, Karl Darlow and Matz Sels, Benitez is determined to sign a new goalkeeper this summer, and Caballero is now his number one target.

The 35-year-old is a free agent following his release from Manchester City, where he made 27 senior appearances last season, and is keen to move to Tyneside as he feels Newcastle will give him a realistic chance of playing regular first-team football next term.

However, Chelsea have also been in touch with an offer, and while he would only be the number two at Stamford Bridge, Caballero could find himself playing in the Champions League and domestic cup competitions with Antonio Conte’s side.

Chelsea’s financial package is roughly on a par with Newcastle’s, and it remains to be seen whether Charnley is willing to increase his wage offer in order to fend off competition from the reigning Premier League champions.

The Newcastle chief knows what he will have to pay to land Lejeune as the Eibar centre-half has an £8.7m release clause in his current contract.

Charnley has signalled a willingness to pay that in his discussions with the Eibar board, but despite a deal appearing close last weekend, the defender is still to travel to England to complete a medical and finalise personal terms.

Again, Newcastle find themselves facing late competition, with Tottenham and Arsenal also having been in touch with Eibar to discuss Lejeune’s position. At this stage, however, neither London club has pledged to meet the 26-year-old’s buyout clause.

Newcastle turned their attentions to Lejeune when they missed out on Ruben Semedo earlier this week, with the Portuguese defender completing a €14m move from Sporting Lisbon to Villarreal.

When it comes to Abraham, Newcastle find themselves tussling with Brighton, and Chris Hughton’s side are understood to have approached Chelsea with a late financial offer that could yet see them steal the former Bristol City loanee from under the Magpies’ noses.

Consett Stanley Advertiser:

LOAN RANGER: Newcastle are hoping to sign Tammy Abraham on a season-long loan from Chelsea

Newcastle have agreed the broad terms of a loan agreement with Chelsea, and Abraham is happy to move to the North-East. However, Brighton continue to battle hard in an attempt to land the 19-year-old, and further talks involving all parties are expected to take place in the next 72 hours.

Benitez is also targeting a midfielder, although contrary to reports emerging from the North-West yesterday, he is not pursuing Manchester City’s Fabian Delph.

Delph is available for around £12m, but while Newcastle twice inquired about his potential availability during the January transfer window, he does not currently feature on the club’s wanted list.