Rafa Benitez steps up centre-half search as Celtic and Werder Bremen stars linked with Newcastle

Jozo Simunovic of Celtic, right
Jozo Simunovic of Celtic, right
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Newcastle United boss Rafa Benitez is stepping up his search for reinforcements – with a centre-half high on his wishlist.

Benitez has guided the Magpies back to the Premier League at the first attempt after last season’s relegation heartache.

But having built a squad mainly focused on just getting out of the Championship, he knows he needs a number of new players if the club are to thrive – and survive – back in the top flight.

Benitez has already instructed Newcastle’s scouts to look at games both home and abroad, and has been linked with a move for two defenders.

Reports in Germany claim that the Magpies have made ‘contact’ with German side Werder Bremen over the signing of Italian centre-back Luca Caldirola.

The 26-year-old’s contract runs out at the end of the season, which makes him an attractive proposition for a number of clubs.

Premier League side Stoke City and Huddersfield Town, who Newcastle pipped to an automatic promotion spot, are also said to be interested in the defender, who has been plagued by injury recently.

The Italian Under-21 international started his career at Inter Milan, and was briefly there when Benitez was head coach at the club.

He had a spell at Cesena before joining Bremen, but has been restricted to just 43 starts in four years due to a number of injuries.

Caldirola joined Darmstadt on loan last season, making 34 appearances, but has featured just five times for Bremen this campaign due to injury.

The Magpies have also been linked with a move for Celtic centre-half Jozo Simunovic, who has impressed during the Glasgow side’s runaway SPL triumph this season.

The 22-year-old Croat is highly-rated, and came close to a move to Torino last summer, only for the deal to fall through after the two clubs couldn’t agree a fee.

Newcastle would face competition for the youngster, however, with his form having alerted La Liga duo Espanyol and Sevilla, while Germans Red Bull Leipzig are also keeping tabs on Simunovic, who could be available for around £12million.

Benitez has four centre-halves at Newcastle – Ciaran Clark, Grant Hanley, Chancel Mbemba and captainJamaal Lascelles, who underwent a groin operation yesterday.