By Will Butcher

Brighton have issued a hands-off warning to Championship rivals Newcastle by preparing a new and improved contract for star man Anthony Knockaert.

The Argus claimed that Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez is a keen admirer of the playmaker, and is willing to shell out in the region of £6million to £10million after already having an offer rejected.

Now the Shields Gazette claim that the 24-year-old is set to be offered a new contract to stay at the Amex Stadium, despite having three years remaining on his current Brighton deal.

The Chronicle’s chief sports writer Lee Ryder also confirmed via his personal Twitter account that a new deal was reportedly on the table for the former Leicester playmaker.

The former Leicester City star left the Foxes last summer to play for Belgian giants Standard Liege. After scoring seven goals in all competitions during the first half of the season, the Seagulls came calling and Knockaert put pen to paper on a £2.6million deal.

The Frenchman scored another five league goals and added seven assists for Brighton as they mounted a promotion challenge, but were beaten in the play-off semi-finals by Sheffield Wednesday.

He demonstrated his value once again on Friday night as he scored the first goal for Brighton in their 3-0 Championship win over Nottingham Forest.

Championship big-boys Newcastle are in the hunt for an instant return to the top-flight, after former Real Madrid manager Rafa Benitez has so far dwarfed his Championship rivals with over £40million of spending on eight new recruits.

Premier League stars Mohamed Diame, Matt Ritchie and Dwight Gayle have all dropped a division to sign for the Magpies. Matz Sels, Jesus Gamez, Isaac Hayden, Ciaran Clark and Grant Hanley have also put pen to paper at St. James’ Park.

In other Newcastle transfer news, this 23-year-old could be set to strike a deal with Newcastle over a transfer.