LIVERPOOL have become the latest club to join the battle for Newcastle United transfer target Charlie Austin.

Senior Liverpool officials have made contact with Austin’s representatives to raise the possibility of a deal that would see the QPR striker join the recently-signed Danny Ings at Anfield next season.

Having backed Brendan Rodgers to remain in his position despite a disappointing end to last season, the Liverpool hierarchy are determined to make a series of high-profile signings this summer, and Austin has emerged as a leading target.

That will make Newcastle’s job all the more difficult as they attempt to lure Austin to St James’ Park, with West Ham, Southampton, Aston Villa and Chelsea also having discussed the possibility of signing Austin this summer.

With QPR owner Tony Fernandes hoping to receive more than £15m for the 25-year-old, who returned to England last night after being part of the squad that played Slovenia in a European Championships qualifier, the Magpies’ hopes of pulling off an early-summer deal would appear to be dead in the water.

A protracted battle with a number of Premier League clubs looks likely, but with new head coach Steve McClaren having spoken of his desire to a sign a ‘traditional number nine’ this summer, Lee Charnley has been charged with the task of doing everything possible to land Austin.

Newcastle have other attacking targets – most notably West Brom forward Saido Berahino and their former striker Andy Carroll, if a pay-as-you-play deal could be agreed with the injury-plagued North-Easterner – but Austin is the club’s preferred option by some distance.

The Magpies’ recruitment team are hoping to hold more formal discussions with QPR and Austin’s representatives this week, although they are still to agree a fee with Fernandes.

McClaren is also hoping to make progress with his backroom team in the next 48 hours, with former Middlesbrough midfielder Bolo Zenden being considered as a potential recruit.

Meanwhile, Jonas Gutierrez has launched another attack over his controversial release at the end of last season, claiming Newcastle “don’t care about anything”.

Gutierrez was not offered a new deal to remain on Tyneside despite scoring in Newcastle’s crucial final-day win over West Ham, and, along with team-mate Ryan Taylor, was only told of his release in a joint telephone call from former head coach John Carver.

“I think man to man, face to face is the nice thing to do,” said Gutierrez. “It made me think they don’t care about anything.

“I had been there seven years, I always did my best. The only 18 months I didn’t play was because I was going through my illness.

“Maybe they could have told me before the end of the season so I could say thank you to the fans on the pitch after the last game.”