NEWCASTLE UNITED will make a renewed attempt to sign Schalke centre-half Joel Matip in January as the club begin to turn their attention to the second phase of a three-part plan to overhaul the squad.

With Mike Ashley and Lee Charnley determined to back Steve McClaren despite a disappointing start to the season, the Magpies’ ‘transfer committee’ will meet in the forthcoming international break to analyse the summer’s recruitment policy and firm up their plans for the January window.

While questions have been raised about the wisdom of continuing to target young, relatively unproven players from overseas, there will not be a radical change of approach when the window reopens at the turn of the year.

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The Northern Echo:

Newcastle’s scouting team have continued to operate on the continent in the last month or so, with a particular focus on Germany and Spain, and are continuing to monitor a handful of players who have been heavily on the radar in the past.

There is a shared acceptance that the squad is light at both centre-half and centre-forward, and the hope is that despite an outlay of more than £50m in the summer, both problem areas can be addressed in January.

However, there is an acceptance that clubs tend to overinflate their asking prices in the January window – particularly in relation to strikers – and the first priority will be to improve a defence that has looked rocky despite the recent arrival of Chancel Mbemba.

With Fabricio Coloccini’s long-term future still uncertain despite the signing of a new one-year contract extension in August, there is a desire to sign a commanding central defender who can take on a leadership role at the heart of the back four, and Matip, a 24-year-old Cameroon international, is currently seen as the most viable option.

Newcastle officials discussed Matip’s position with their counterparts at Schalke on a number of occasions in the summer, and were close to tabling a formal €10m offer for the towering defender.

However, Mbemba’s availability, coupled with a reluctance on the part of Schalke to sell, persuaded the Magpies to drop their interest before the window swung shut.

They have continued to keep a close eye on Matip though, and are hoping a combination of circumstances will enable them to push through a deal in January.

Matip will enter the final year of his current contract next summer, and while there have been suggestions of a new round of contract discussions in Germany, he is yet to be offered a new deal. Despite Schalke’s presence in the Europa League, and current position of third in the Bundesliga, Newcastle would be confident of trumping any offer from Matip’s current employers.

Schalke’s potential pursuit of a Champions League place could complicate things, but having received positive feedback about the German club’s potential valuation of Matip in the summer, Newcastle would hope to avoid too big a ‘January premium’ if they returned to the table in three months time.

Chief scout Graham Carr is also understood to be running the rule over Wolfsburg defender Robin Knoche, although he is regarded to be at a less advanced stage of his development than Matip.

In attack, Newcastle continue to monitor Lyon’s Alexandre Lacazette, another long-standing target who was the subject of considerable interest in the summer.

The Magpies were unable to talk Lyon down to a price they regarded as realistic for the 24-year-old before the start of the season, and are wary of becoming involved in lengthy negotiations again, only for the goalposts to keep on moving. However, they will be aware of mounting speculation in France about a brewing contractual dispute relating to the striker, and could try to exploit any uncertainty.

Charlie Austin’s future will inevitably be the subject of much debate come January, but while McClaren has publicly confirmed that Newcastle retain an interest in the striker, the fact he is currently facing around a month on the sidelines will hardly assuage their previous fears about his injury record.