Spanish club wait Newcastle’s next move in defender pursuit

Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez.
Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez.

Eibar are waiting on Newcastle United’s next move in their pursuit of Florian Lejeune.

The Magpies are ready to exploit Lejeune’s £8.7million release clause.

Lejeune – who left Manchester City last summer – has been earmarked as a potential defensive recruit.

Boss Rafa Benitez is keen to strengthen his defence ahead of Newcastle’s return to the Premier League.

However, there is a question mark over the future of defender Chancel Mbemba, signed two years ago from Anderlecht.

Mbemba was a bit-part player in United’s Championship-winning campaign.

And the 22-year-old could leave the club in search of first-team football.

Mbemba dedicated his goal for DR Congo against Botswana at the weekend to former Newcastle team-mate Cheick Tiote, who tragically passed away last week after collapsing during a training session with new club Beijing Enterprises.

Lejeune – who had a spell at Villarreal earlier in his career – signed a four-year deal at Eibar last summer after leaving Manchester City.

The Paris-born player impressed last season, when his team finished 10th in La Liga.

Eibar sporting director Fran Garagarza told Marca: “I’m not very optimistic. I see it difficult for Lejeune to stay.

“We are worried that Newcastle are taking very strong steps.”

United could force through a deal in the coming days, with Benitez keen to see a number of new faces arrive before his squad reports back for the start of pre-season training on July 3.

Meanwhile, Newcastle have announced a third pre-season friendly.

Benitez’s side will take on Heart of Midlothian at Tynecastle on Friday, July 14 (7.45pm kick-off).

Newcastle will also take on Preston North End at Deepdale on July 22 and Bradford City at Valley Parade on July 26.

Hearts are managed by former United coach Ian Cathro, who left St James’s Park last season to take over at the Scottish Premiership club.

Only three stands at Tynecastle will be open because of ongoing redevelopment at the stadium.

Former United defender Aaron Hughes is at Hearts, who finished fifth last season.

Newcastle have met Hearts 27 times going back to 1897, but the most recent meeting was back in August, 1995, when a Peter Beardsley goal secured a 1-0 win for the Tynesiders in front of a 13,337 crowd.

Other visits in recent memory include a 1-0 defeat, to a goal from Ian Baird, in 1992, a 1-0 victory in 1987 when Paul Gascoigne scored and a 1-1 draw in 1980, when Bobby Shinton’s Magpie opener was cancelled out by a goal from Chris Robertson, brother of future Newcastle forward John Robertson.

The clubs also met over two legs in the Texaco Cup in September, 1971. An Andy Lynch strike gave Hearts victory in the first leg in Edinburgh, but Newcastle won the return 2-1 thanks to a double from Malcolm Macdonald, with defender Alan Anderson’s goal late in extra time setting up a shoot-out decider.

Newcastle edged through 4-3.

* Hatem Ben Arfa is heading for a summer exit at Paris Saint-Germain.

The former Newcastle United forward joined the club last year after a successful spell at Nice.

But Ben Arfa had a frustrating season at the Parc des Princes.

And a report in France claims that the Ligue 1 club intend to sell him this summer.

Ben Arfa, according to Le Parisien, also wants to leave PSG.

However, Ben Arfa – who has a year left on his deal – will play hardball over the terms of his departure.

The France international – who left Newcastle in January 2015 after falling out with then-manager Alan Pardew – is said to want the final year of his contract to be paid up before he leaves.

Ben Arfa, on holiday in Miami, reportedly favours a move to Spanish club Seville.