NEWCASTLE UNITED have opened talks with Bafetimbi Gomis after turning to the France international in an attempt to address their striker shortage.

With Aston Villa refusing to lower their £8m valuation of Darren Bent, Magpies officials are hoping to conclude a swift deal for Gomis before Alan Pardew and his players return from a two-game tour of Portugal in the middle of next week.

A fee of around £4m is understood to have been agreed with Lyon officials, and the French club’s chairman, Jean-Michal Aulas, has granted permission to speak to Gomis and his representatives.

Gomis, a 27-year-old striker who scored 16 Ligue 1 goals last season, cost £10m when he joined Lyon from St Etienne in 2009.

He had already been linked with a possible move to Newcastle at that stage, with Kevin Keegan travelling to France to watch him in action, but the Magpies opted not to make a bid.

Gomis, who has rejected Lyon’s final offer of a new deal, was targeted by Swansea earlier in the summer, but the Welsh club opted to sign Wilfried Bony instead.

Aston Villa have also tabled a bid for his services, and Gomis has discussed personal terms with officials from the Midlands club.

However, sources in France claim the forward has expressed a clear preference for Newcastle, and it is hoped that a round of talks at the weekend will pave the way for a successful deal.

Whether Gomis is the only striker to arrive at St James’ Park this summer depends on what happens with Papiss Cisse, who was omitted from the squad that flew to Portugal after refusing to wear clothing bearing the logo of sponsors Wonga.

Newcastle play the opening game of their Portuguese tour this evening when they take on Rio Ave in the Estadio dos Arcos.

The club’s players have spent two-and-a-half days in their training base, and Vurnon Anita claims improved communication has already boosted team spirit.

Pardew has made learning English a key part of the summer for many of his players, and there are already signs of progress.

"We have had six months now to get to know each other as a group, we know each other better. We have no excuse this season to do badly. It has to be good," said Anita.

"The communication is much better too, everybody can speak English as well, so it is easier for everybody to communicate with each other and with the supporters.

"I knew that it was going to be very, very tough when I came a year ago because it is totally different to Holland. It is all about improvement. We have to keep together and work hard on and off the pitch. Being able to talk to each other will help."

* Newcastle will play a pre-season friendly against Rangers at Ibrox on Tuesday, August 6 (7.45pm).