NEWCASTLE UNITED have joined the growing number of clubs mulling over a move for Barnsley’s hot midfield prospect Jacob Butterfield.

The 21-year-old, already the Tykes’ captain, is one of the brightest prospects outside the Premier League and is now part of the England Under-21 set-up as well as being placed on stand-by for next summer’s Olympics.

Butterfield’s situation has become the subject of increased speculation because of his failure to agree a new contract at Oakwell, where they have been looking to tie him down to a long-term deal.

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Come the summer, if his contract expires, any club wishing to acquire Butterfield would have to compensate Barnsley for the years he has been with their academy and predictions about his future worth, most likely through a tribunal.

Newcastle assistant manager John Carver watched him on Saturday when Barnsley defeated Leeds United 4-1 and Butterfield turned in another positive display in the Championship.

Barnsley are anticipating an offer or two will arrive on their table during this month’s transfer window, knowing there could be an even greater number of clubs interested when his contract runs out in the summer.

Newcastle are pursuing a number of different avenues in the transfer market, but their priority during the next few weeks remains a new central defender.

Injuries and suspensions have caught Newcastle out in recent weeks and manager Alan Pardew is desperate to bring in a centre-back to compete with Mike Williamson and James Perch to partner Fabricio Coloccini in the absence of Steven Taylor.

There were further reports in France yesterday suggesting Montpellier’s Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa is the subject of ongoing interest from Tyneside. Arsenal, however, have emerged as genuine contenders for the 22-year-old’s signature.

Bordeaux defender Michael Ciani insists he is determined to force his way back in to the Girondins’ club’s plans despite being considered by the Magpies.

The 27-year-old, who has not figured since November 19, said: “Why would I leave when I still have a year and a half left on my contract? My desire is to find my place in the starting line-up for Bordeaux again.”

Given Ciani’s lack of game time, it would also seem strange for Newcastle to target a player struggling to start in Ligue 1, but Pardew has an extensive list of defensive options to work on. He is, though, not looking at landing Blackburn’s Chris Samba.

When Newcastle face Manchester United tomorrow at St James’ Park it will not be defensively he has to worry. The Newcastle boss must work out a way of replacing the injured Gabriel Obertan on the wing.

Obertan could be out for a month with a toe injury and Sammy Ameobi is on stand-by to start, although the return from a three-match suspension of Dan Gosling provides an alternative.