NEWCASTLE'S hopes of landing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang have suffered a major blow after German side Borussia Dortmund agreed a fee of around £13m for the St Etienne striker.
But the Magpies' chances of signing Darren Bent have increased after the Aston Villa striker was frozen out of the Midland club's pre-season preparations.
Aubameyang has been one of the most in-demand forwards in Europe this summer, but Newcastle officials had retained hopes of persuading the Gabon international to move to St James' Park despite intense competition from a range of sides.
There has been renewed contact in the last two weeks, even though new director of football Joe Kinnear had expressed a desire to add more Premier League experience to the ranks, but Dortmund's desire to push through a move of their own looks to have scuppered Newcastle's chances of securing a deal.
Last year's Champions League finalists have agreed a fee of around 15m Euros with St Etienne, and there is no prospect of Mike Ashley agreeing to match such a figure.
Aubameyang would prefer to move to England, having spoken last week of his desire to prove himself in the Premier League, but his representatives have been instructed to talk terms with Dortmund instead.
The Bundesliga side are confident of being able to match the African's wage demands, and Aubameyang was travelling to Germany last night to undergo a medical.
Newcastle will turn their attentions elsewhere as they look to bolster an attacking line-up that was severely weakened by the departure of Demba Ba in January.
Bent is a leading option, and having returned from his honeymoon, the former Sunderland striker is keen to sort out his future.
Bent reported back for pre-season training with Aston Villa on Monday, but does not feature in Paul Lambert's plans for next season.
The England international has been removed from the first-team dressing room and instructed to train away from the rest of the senior squad alongside fellow outcasts Stephen Ireland and Alan Hutton.
Bent has been told he will not be considered for any of Villa's pre-season friendlies or selected for first-team duty next season if he remains at Villa Park beyond the end of the transfer window.
The striker is also interesting Norwich, Fulham and Stoke, but is open to the idea of a return to the North-East.
However, at this stage, Newcastle are unwilling to match Aston Villa's £8m valuation of the 28-year-old, or go anywhere close to the £70,000-a-week that Bent is believed to be earning at Villa Park.
The Magpies continue to monitor long-term target Andre-Pierre Gignac, who is expected to leave Marseille this summer.
However, French sources claim Gignac is aware of the mounting interest from Newcastle, but is hoping to secure European football next season if he leaves the Stade Velodrome.
Newcastle should complete their first summer sale in the next 24 hours, with James Perch having undergone a medical at Wigan yesterday.
The Championship club have agreed a fee of around £700,000 for the utility midfielder, who cost £1m when he moved from Nottingham Forest in 2010.
Meanwhile, Kinnear has produced another rambling defence of his new position at Newcastle which was once again littered with factual errors.
The 66-year-old claimed he was "head and shoulders" above the other directors of football in the Premier League, and wrongly claimed to have won every major trophy as a player.
"Every top club in the land has got one (a director of football)," said Kinnear. "We haven't - that's the difference. The manager can't do everything.
"I'm probably the only football manager to be a director of football. I don't know any other ex-managers who have.
"I've been a manager for 35 years. I've been Manager of the Year. I've won every award there is in football as a player. I think all those qualities put me head and shoulders above every other director of football.
"Some directors of football have never played the game - I'm lending my experience as a manager for all those years - ten years at Wimbledon, two years at Nottingham Forest, two years winning promotion at Luton and, of course, almost two years at Newcastle."