Benitez eyes first summer signing, hopeful £12million deal clinched before Euros - reports
By North-east correspondent Harry Sykes
Newcastle are weighing up a £12million move for Fulham striker Ross McCormack, according to a report.
Manager Rafael Benitez is keen to make the 29-year-old his first summer signing as he focuses his attention on rebuilding the Magpies’ squad for their campaign in the Championship.
Newcastle announced on Wednesday night that Benitez has agreed an updated contract that gives him control over the team’s transfers and scouting.
According to the Daily Mail, Benitez is eyeing a swoop for McCormack, who has a £12million release clause in his contract and has attracted interest from Aston Villa and Norwich City.
The club have been reluctant to sign players over the age of 25 but recognise McCormack could play a key role for them in the Championship.
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McCormack, a Scotland international, was the subject of a failed bid from the Magpies’ North East rivals Middlesbrough in January.
He scored 23 goals last season as Fulham escaped relegation to League One, and was the Championship’s top scorer in his final season at Leeds in the 2013-14 campaign, netting 28 times. The Cottagers paid a second-tier record £11m for the striker in the summer of 2014.
The Telegraph claim Benitez has been drawing up a list of transfer targets over the last week and will hope to move swiftly to land at least one before the start of the European Championships next month. It is said McCormack is a deal that could be clinched before the tournament.
The Spaniard has claimed Newcastle will not sell their star players this summer unless he wants them to.
Newcastle have been tipped to sell Moussa Sissoko, Georginio Wijnaldum, Daryl Janmaat and Andros Townsend this summer following their relegation to the Championship.
But the Spaniard revealed he has the final say on whether the club will offload any of their stars.
“I don’t need to sell any I players I don’t want to sell,” said Benitez at a press conference on Wednesday, as quoted by the Chronicle’s Newcastle editor Mark Douglas.
Big statement from Benitez on keeping best players. ‘I don’t need to sell any players I don’t want to sell’
— Mark Douglas (@MsiDouglas) May 25, 2016
Benitez’s fresh agreement is said to include written assurances that Benitez will have full control over recruitment and the club’s scouting network as well as a clear transfer budget both this summer and in the January window.
The manager has been promised a large transfer kitty in order to rebuild the side this summer and has been drawing up a list of targets over the last week.
The Spaniard signed a three-year Magpies contract in March but revealed there is a break clause in the deal that allows him to quit if the club are not in the Premier League.
However, Benitez has held extensive talks with Newcastle chiefs in recent weeks about staying on after previously accepting he would leave if the club went down.
Benitez steered the north-east giants to a six-match unbeaten run at the end of the season but was unable to prevent them dropping out of the top tier.
The fans have made it abundantly clear they want the former Liverpool, Chelsea and Real Madrid manager to stay on at St James’ Park and have urged owner Mike Ashley and managing director Lee Charnley to give Benitez the control he wanted.
The Spaniard met Ashley for the first time last week to outline his demands to stay on at St James’ Park, including being given full control of recruitment, the first time this would have been granted to any maanger since the Sports Direct owner bought the club in 2007.
An announcement is imminent that Benitez will prepare the club for a 46-match campaign in England’s second tier.
In other Newcastle news, Barcelona are keen to sign one of the club’s leading players.