NEWCASTLE UNITED are hoping to take advantage of Hull City’s relegation by prising centre-half Harry Maguire from the KCOM Stadium.

Rafael Benitez is determined to strengthen in a number of areas this summer, and has identified the heart of his side’s defence as a potential weak point.

Grant Hanley is almost certain to leave St James’ Park after struggling to hold down a first-team place this season, and Chancel Mbemba could also find his position in the squad at risk despite returning to the starting line-up for the final two games of the campaign.

Newcastle have been monitoring a number of defensive targets in the last few months, with Sporting Lisbon’s Ruben Semedo receiving special scrutiny, but Maguire has emerged as Benitez’s preferred option.

The 24-year-old will be available this summer, with Hull’s relegation to the Championship having been confirmed by yesterday’s 4-0 defeat at Crystal Palace. The Tigers will be unable to hold on to Maguire, who has been their most impressive performer for the majority of the season, but Newcastle face intense competition from a number of their Premier League rivals as they attempt to force through a deal.

Liverpool, Everton and Tottenham are all understood to be preparing formal approaches for Maguire, who came close to joining Middlesbrough last summer.

Newcastle’s recruitment team will hope the prospect of a regular first-team place will help nudge him towards Tyneside, but will be keen to avoid an expensive bidding war given that Maguire only has one year of his current Hull contract to run.

Speaking before his side was relegated yesterday, Maguire expressed a reluctance to drop down to the Championship when he said: “Obviously every footballer wants to be playing in the Premier League, myself included. It’s probably the greatest league in the world at the moment.

“With new contracts etcetera, I’ll be discussing those at the end of the season when the football has finished.”

As well as making a number of permanent signings, Benitez will also attempt to secure some loan additions this summer, with Chelsea duo Nathan Ake and Ruben Loftus-Cheek firmly in his sights.

Benitez made inquiries about Loftus-Cheek in January, and will attempt to sign the midfielder on a season-long loan.

Loftus-Cheek has made just six Premier League appearances for Chelsea this season, and while the Blues will be playing more matches next term thanks to their return to the Champions League, Antonio Conte could feel the 21-year-old’s development would be aided by regular action elsewhere.

Ake has spent the majority of the current campaign on loan at Bournemouth, who will be keen to engineer a similar deal again next season. However, Benitez is also keen on the versatile 22-year-old, who can play at left-back or centre-half.

The Newcastle boss, who was back on Merseyside yesterday supporting the Run for the 96, which remembers the victims of the Hillsborough disaster, is keen to improve his squad this summer, but is also determined to maintain the unity and spirit that helped power his side to promotion.

Jack Colback was a member of the squad that was relegated 12 months ago, and also played a prominent role in this season’s promotion success, and the midfielder admits the mood in the two camps could not have been more different.

“The success was a lot to do with the character of the team,” said Colback. “I think that was lacking when I first came. We were lacking that fight, that drive at times when the going gets tough.

“The expectations have been bigger this year. We've been expected to win the league, and rightly so, really, because we’re a big club.

“We’ve had to cope with that, but we’ve always reacted. We started off slow. That was maybe a wake-up call for us. We've been consistent throughout.

“We’ve lost probably more games than we’d hoped, but we’ve finished top of the league so no one can say anything about that.”

Newcastle were relegated along with Norwich City and Aston Villa last May, and Colback feels those two sides’ struggles underline just how successful the Magpies have been this season.

“You can’t downplay it,” he said. “If you compare Villa and Norwich, who have got very strong squads, they haven’t even got to the play-offs. That shows the strength of the league.

“Even (against) the lower teams, it’s always a battle, especially for us because we’re a big scalp. Teams lift their game against us, and we’ve had to match that.

“Over the course of the season I think we’ve been very consistent. We’ve had the odd setback, but we’ve always reacted and I think that's been the key.”