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8th Jan, 2017 | 6:35pm

Newcastle in three-horse race to land 25-year-old Championship star - report

By Will Butcher

Newcastle are eyeing a move for Fulham’s Tom Cairney but face competition from two Championship rivals, according to a report.

The Mirror claimed in Sunday’s paper (page 64) that Cairney is also interesting Norwich and Brighton, as he continues to wear the captain’s armband in the absence of Scott Parker.

Known for his eye for goal from the middle of the park, the 25-year-old has been Fulham’s star performer this season in Slavisa Jokanovic’s play-off chasing Championship side.

Serbian boss Jokanovic is desperate to hold on to his number 10, after being quoted as saying that he will guarantee Cairney remains at Craven Cottage.

“Tom is so important to us. He makes us tick and he shows he can do damage to teams,” Jokanovic said. “I’m going to guarantee he’s going to stay with us.”

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Rafa Benitez is reportedly interested in bringing in a number of players this month, as he looks to kickstart the Toon’s stuttering bid to secure promotion back to the Premier League at the first attempt.

However, the former Liverpool boss may be forced to look elsewhere unless he can strike a deal with the west London club.

This season, the former Blackburn midfielder has scored five goals and provided four more in assists during his 25 league and cup appearances.

Football Insider verdict:

Bringing Cairney to St. James’ Park would prove a top signing for Benitez’s side, as he continues to inspire Fulham in their bit to secure a place in the Championship play-offs. With plenty of experience in England’s second division, Cairney could provide the know how to help the Magpies secure promotion. However, with Ayoze Perez and Mohamed Diame currently plying their trade in the number 10 role, the Scotland Under-21 international might be tempted to avoid a move to the Toon after seeing the likes of Achraf Lazaar, Daryl Murphy and Matz Sels struggle for game time following summer moves to the north East. Manager Jokanovic has also made it as clear as he can that he doesn’t want his star to move and a move this January might be too soon.

In other Newcastle transfer news, this striker could be set to leave after talks were confirmed.