By Harry Sykes

Cheick Tiote’s exit is a major boost to Rafael Benitez’s hopes of signing a first-team midfielder for Newcastle this summer, according to a report.

The Chronicle claim midfielder Tiote’s departure to Chinese second tier side Beijing Enterprises will clear “another big earner” off the wage bill of the first team.

It is said that this in turn should help Benitez to bring in a top-ranking midfielder in the next window.

Newcastle did not make any first-team signings in the January window despite a concerted attempt to re-sign winger Andros Townsend from Crystal Palace.

But the two clubs could not agree a deal because Palace held out for their £13million valuation to be met, while, as confirmed by manager Sam Allardyce, Newcastle wanted a loan until the end of the season.

It remains to be seen if Newcastle will make another push for Townsend, as their precise plans are likely to depend upon whether they make an instant return to the Premier League.

Benitez’s side are top of the Championship table with one third of the campaign remaining and well placed to secure one of the two automatic promotion spots.

Newcastle are yet to confirm the departure of Tiote but he was pictured having a meal in China on a post from his agency’s Twitter feed on Tuesday night titled “post signing celebration dinner”, suggesting the deal was done.

Tiote, whose Newcastle contract was due to expire in the summer, made just three appearances for the club in the opening half of the campaign.

It has been reported that he has agreed a two-year deal with Beijing Enterprises, to end a seven-year association with Newcastle.

In other Newcastle transfer news, the club have lined up an Arsenal raid for a defender after a major development.

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