NEWCASTLE UNITED have made Dutch international Luuk De Jong a leading candidate to replace Demba Ba should the Senegalese striker depart this summer.
De Jong has been heavily linked with a number of clubs after a scintillating season with FC Twente which has seen him grab 25 goals in the Eredivisie.
The Magpies, who have been visitors to the Enschede outfit to keep an eye on defender Douglas, have been hugely impressed by the 21-year-old's ability and future potential.
He has a contract which runs until the summer of 2014 but the player himself has readily admitted that he is likely to move if the right offer comes along.
"I feel ready to take the next step in my career, to do well when the opportunity arises, because I have developed well at Twente. Some opportunities should be grabbed when they come," said De Jong.
Newcastle are aware of the player's situation and knows they will face tough competition to do a deal given Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, Everton and Roma are all monitoring his situation.
But he would not come cheap after scoring a fantastic 39 goals in 76 matches and Twente boss Steve McClaren is reluctant to lose one of his best players.
But with a price-tag of around £10m the former Middlesbrough manager knows such a fee would boost his own recruitment plans during the close-season - even if he would like to keep the hot-shot.
Newcastle are having to consider their options moving forward because there is a strong chance one of this season's heroes could be moving on.
Alan Pardew, Newcastle's boss, admitted last week that talks are planned this summer in a bid to sort out Ba's contract.
The former West Ham front-man has a clause in his current deal which would allow him to leave if an offer of a certain value - believed to be £7m - comes in from a club.
However, after Newcastle secured a place in the Europa League next season, there is hope that they can tie him down to a new deal and take out the release clause.
As long as it takes for a new contract to be agreed, there will always be the possibility that the release clause will be triggered, which could lead to Ba accepting a move elsewhere.
Ba has outlined his affection for Newcastle and admitted that he was looking forward to his return to the club for next season.
But the 26-year-old, who scored 16 goals despite failing to find the net since February, has been linked with Chelsea, Tottenham and Liverpool.
The big spenders of the French league, Paris St Germain, have also been mentioned because of his hopes of playing for them at some stage in his career.
Pardew is keen to make changes to his squad, but keeping Ba would be a preferred option.