COMMENT By Matt Bullin

Newcastle must sign Sunderland star Jermain Defoe this summer after he has admitted he will be a free agent at the end of the season.

Newcastle confirmed their promotion back to the Premier League at the first time of asking when they beat Barnsley on Sunday.

Their 3-0 victory at St. James’ Park ensured they overtook Brighton, who drew with Aston Villa, to become champions on the final day of the season.

Despite boasting a star-studded squad with the likes of Jonjo Shelvey and Dwight Gayle, Rafa Benitez will need to strengthen his squad if they are to survive in the top-flight next term.

One thing they will need is goals and one man they should look to sign is their neighbour’s star man, Jermain Defoe.

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Defoe has been in fine form this season for the already relegated Black Cats, scoring 15 Premier League goals in 35 games – in a side that struggled massively.

The 34-year-old has confirmed that he will be available in the summer too, and he has hinted at a Stadium of Light exit.

Speaking to the London Evening Standard, he said: “We don’t know exactly what is going on but I think it’s well documented, I’m a free agent.”

He went on to talk about leaving Sunderland: “It is a difficult situation, it is going to be emotional.

Defoe hints at an exit here, but he also alludes to the special relationship he has formed with the Sunderland faithful.

That does bring into question whether he would make the switch to bitter rivals Newcastle – but he’d be exactly the sort of player they need.

There is little doubt Newcastle would be willing to match or better his reported £80,000-a-week wages, recognising his quality.

Goals don’t come cheap these days but the absence of a transfer fee makes the wages much more palatable – it’s doubtful you’ll find a guaranteed top-flight scorer for less.

The Toon need top-flight experience for their campaign next season, Defoe is a man who has bundles of it – having played for Spurs, Portsmouth and Sunderland in the Premier League.

They also need goals, because they have became reliant on Gayle’s scoring exploits this season, and struggled when he was sidelined.

Defoe is as close to a guaranteed Premier League goal scorer as you will get, and Benitez should pull out all the stops to sign the 56-time England international.

In other Newcastle news, this TalkSport pundit has claimed Defoe would have no issue signing for the Toon.

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