NEWCASTLE UNITED will make Joshua King their number one attacking target as they look to strengthen their squad ahead of their return to the Premier League.

Having been promised a transfer kitty of around £80m following his meeting with Magpies owner Mike Ashley at the start of the week, Rafael Benitez is finalising his list of preferred transfer targets with managing director Lee Charnley.

The Newcastle boss is keen to strengthen in a number of areas this summer, but improving the attack will be a key priority with question marks over Dwight Gayle’s fitness after a string of hamstring problems and Aleksandar Mitrovic’s suitability for the Premier League given his struggles in his previous season in the top-flight.

Newcastle’s scouting team have watched a number of attacking targets in the last few months, with Burnley’s Andre Gray a persistent focus of their attention.

However, the Magpies hierarchy are understood to favour a move for King, who has repeatedly impressed with Bournemouth this season.

The 25-year-old has scored 15 goals in 35 Premier League appearances this term, a tally that has only been bettered by seven other players.

King has been especially prolific in the last three months, scoring 11 goals in his last 14 games, and Benitez regards him as an ideal candidate to spearhead Newcastle’s return to the top-flight.

The Magpies manager would like to a sign a striker with experience of English football, and is also hoping to recruit a mobile centre-forward capable of playing in a manner similar to Gayle. He is also an admirer of Bournemouth’s Callum Wilson, and both Wilson and King fit Ashley’s preferred transfer template in terms of their age and profile.

Newcastle will not be the only team interested in King this summer, with Tottenham also having been mentioned as potential suitors.

The Norway international, who was born in Oslo to a Ghanaian father and Norwegian mother, signed a four-year contract last summer, and Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe has already spoken of his desire to keep the forward at the Vitality Stadium.

However, Howe was making similar noises about Matt Ritchie at the start of last summer, and Newcastle were still able to prise the winger away from the south coast in a £12m deal.

King would almost certainly cost double that amount, but while Benitez is keen to improve the depth of his squad, he sees the purchase of two or three proven campaigners as key to his side’s prospects of succeeding next season.

He will look to increase the size of his budget by sanctioning a number of sales, with Grant Hanley and Daryl Murphy among those set to depart.

Hanley, who signed a five-year contract on Tyneside when he moved from Blackburn, has attracted strong interest from Wolves, although an ongoing power struggle at Molineux could yet see Paul Lambert sidelined when it comes to recruiting players. Lambert has been championing Hanley’s cause, but Wolves’ owners are keen to look overseas.

Newcastle’s players are still basking in the glory of their title success, and goalkeeper Rob Elliot is hoping they get the praise they deserve after finishing on top of the pile.

Having started the season as favourites for promotion, some have described Newcastle’s title victory as merely what was expected, but Elliot feels such comments seriously downplay the extent of their achievements.

“It is easy to say that Newcastle should get promoted,” said Elliot. “But doing it over 46 games is a whole different story.

“It has been a massive achievement. We have a team and a squad everyone can be proud of. It was a brilliant feeling finding out we had won the league – the biggest of my career.”

Elliot was little more than an observer for much of the season, but he replaced Karl Darlow for the 4-1 victory over Preston that secured promotion and retained his place for the wins over Cardiff and Barnsley that resulted in Newcastle claiming the title.

“I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “If you’d said to me six months ago that this would be the way I would make my comeback, in circumstances like that, I wouldn’t have believed you.

“The ups and downs, helping even in a small way has been excellent. We really have a fantastic set of lads, and they really do deserve to wear the shirt.

“Not only have we had to deal with the pressures of the league - we also had to have people criticising us for winning the league. So it’s a case of well done to everyone.”