MIKE ASHLEY has no plans to take Newcastle United off the market despite the prospect of missing his pre-Christmas date he had in mind to sell up.

It is now just over two months since Ashley made it public knowledge through his lawyers that he had placed the club on the market – and he wanted to be out before the festive period.

However, despite lengthy and ongoing discussions, it has emerged the front-runner to buy him out is still way off completing a deal for the Magpies.

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Amanda Staveley’s PCP Capital Partners are refusing to go near to the £380m asking price that Ashley has wanted on the table before agreeing to cash in.

Financier Staveley is believed to have made a couple of offers so far, having made her firm interest known a few weeks ago, but neither has been enough to tempt the Newcastle owner into a sale.

It is understood Ashley is prepared to lower his valuation considerably if it was a one-off payment rather than through instalments, which was something he was prepared to offer to prospective buyers.

But Staveley has still not managed to work out an agreement so far and it seems highly likely at this stage that discussions will continue for some time yet; meaning a takeover, should it take place, would be in the New Year.

Once there is an agreement over a fee it could take around a month for a deal to go through, which will not help Rafael Benitez as he looks to strengthen his squad for the second half of the campaign.

But there does remain a willingness from both sides to keep talking and, despite claims Ashley has placed a deadline for a deal with Staveley, that could still take time and the talks will continue.

Staveley is also believed to have been keen to get things tied up before the festive period so that the would-be new owners would have the opportunity to work with Benitez on the transfer front.

Even though Benitez is not expecting a massive transfer fund for the transfer window, he does expect some cash to spend and the level of that will be determined by who owns the club.

Dubai-based Staveley and PCP Capital Partners – made of wealthy investors from the Middle East and Far East – would be desperate to protect their investment by strengthening the squad, knowing Newcastle have slipped closer to the Premier League’s relegation zone during this recent six-match winless run.

Ashley, clearly desperate to end his ten-year reign provided it doesn’t end in him losing money, also appreciates that the club’s value will drop the closer to the Championship that Newcastle fall.

He has already had to deal with two relegations since taking over in 2007 and he will be desperate to avoid another fall into the second tier, knowing how interest in buying the club would be reduced without the carrot of the Premier League riches in front of them.

As things stand Staveley and PCP Capital Partners have the only serious offer on the table, even if there are other interested parties.

The Northern Echo revealed on Tuesday how Benitez will ask for a transfer kitty to spend in January regardless, with Ashley’s reluctance to hike up the rate for players' wages known to have caused problems in the past.

Benitez would like a new striker, attacking midfielder and a left-back for starters, with Turkish striker Cenk Tosun and Manchester United’s Luke Shaw two of those under consideration.