NEWCASTLE United are set to miss out on one of their leading summer targets after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang admitted he had been in talks with German duo Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen.
The Magpies have been watching Aubameyang for more than a year, and with Andy Carroll unlikely to return to the North-East after West Ham outlined a willingness to bid £15m for his services, the St Etienne striker had emerged as Alan Pardew's main attacking target.
However, Newcastle's hopes of signing the 23-year-old have suffered a major blow after Borussia Dortmund lined him up as their preferred replacement for Robert Lewandowski.
Lewandowski is expected to leave Dortmund this summer, potentially to join reigning European champions Bayern Munich, and Aubameyang will be offered the opportunity to replace him at the Westfalenstadion.
The Gabon international, who scored 21 goals in 44 appearances last season, has expressed a desire to play in the Champions League, and Borussia Dortmund will be able to offer him that option.
Bayer Leverkusen will also compete in next season's Champions League after finishing third in the Bundesliga, and the two German clubs are expected to battle it out for Aubameyang's signature.
Intriguingly, the striker has also been approached by Swansea City, who can offer Europa League football after their success in last season's Capital One Cup.
Newcastle will not be playing in Europe next season, and Mike Ashley's budgetary restraints mean the Magpies will not be able to put together a financial package that would trump that of their rivals.
“I have met with Rudi Voller, Bayer Leverkusen's sporting director, twice, but whether or not St Etienne accept their offer is a different matter,” said Aubameyang.
“Borussia Dortmund have been following me for more than a year now, and I have also met with Michael Laudrup. Swansea have a good project, but I need Champions League football to progress.”
Where that leaves Newcastle's striker search remains to be seen, although Vitesse Arnhem's Wilfried Bony is understood to be an alternative option.
The Magpies have been monitoring the Dutch market for quite a while now, and PSV Eindhoven full-back Erik Pieters has been of long-term interest.
However, the Holland international is among Mark Hughes' list of targets following his appointment at Stoke City and is likely to be offered an opportunity to move to the Britannia Stadium.
Newcastle could make a move for Celtic's Victor Wanyama, although they will only step up their interest in the Kenyan midfielder if Cheik Tiote leaves Tyneside this summer. Tiote has been linked with a possible move to Russian side Lokomotiv Moscow.