NEWCASTLE UNITED’S hopes of retaining Loic Remy beyond the end of the season have suffered a major blow after Arsenal signalled an intention to step up their own interest in the striker.

Remy’s loan deal from QPR is due to expire at the end of the current campaign, but while Magpies manager Alan Pardew has publicly confirmed his desire to sign the 27-year-old, talks between Newcastle officials and Remy’s representatives have not progressed beyond a tentative stage.

Even if QPR win promotion to the Premier League this season, Harry Redknapp is still expected to sell a player who cost the London club £8m when he moved last January.

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That opens the door slightly for the Magpies, who were unable to insert a cast-iron clause into Remy’s contract when he signed on loan last August that might have enabled them to automatically conclude a permanent deal this summer.

Pardew remains hopeful that an agreement can be reached, but competing interest from some of Newcastle’s Premier League rivals was always likely to be a complicating factor, and Arsenal’s intention to make a formal approach to QPR officials represents a significant blow.

Arsene Wenger resisted the temptation to sign an experienced striker during last month’s transfer window, meaning Nicklas Bendtner still represents the only attacking cover to first-choice forward Olivier Giroud.

Bendtner is due to become a free agent at the end of the season and will not be offered a new deal at the Emirates Stadium, so Wenger has accepted he will have to sign at least one new striker in the summer.

The Frenchman is a long-standing admirer of Remy and is understood to have sent Arsenal scouts to watch him on a number of occasions during his time with Nice and Marseille.

Last week’s decision not to pursue allegations of rape that related to an alleged incident last May removed one potential barrier to Arsenal’s pursuit of Remy, and there is now a strong likelihood of a concerted attempt to push through a deal before the start of next season.

Assuming Arsenal finish in the top four and qualify for the Champions League, it is hard to see how Newcastle could persuade Remy to remain at St James’ Park.

For all that the forward has enjoyed his time in the North-East, which has brought him 11 goals in 21 appearances, he retains an understandable desire to play at the highest level of European football.

His departure would leave a major hole in Newcastle’s attacking ranks, and there is likely to be another gap to fill as Shola Ameobi has not been offered a new deal.

Ameobi is due to become a free agent in June, and had the Magpies been intending to keep him, they would almost certainly have looked to initiate contract talks before now.

At the age of 32, Mike Ashley appears to have decided that Ameobi’s best years are behind him, a judgement that will no doubt have been influenced by Pardew’s decision to leave the veteran striker on the bench for eight of Newcastle’s last 11 Premier League matches.

Ameobi has been the subject of interest from Chinese Super League side Guangzhou, who are managed by former England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson.

The Chinese transfer window does not close until the end of this month, but Ameobi is unlikely to take up an offer of a move to the Far East.

Instead, the striker is likely to remain at Newcastle until the summer in an attempt to earn a place in the Nigeria squad for this year’s World Cup. He will then attempt to secure a deal that will enable him to remain in England, even if that means dropping down to the Championship.