NEWCASTLE UNITED are hoping to land Andre Gray for a cut-price £12m fee, with the Burnley striker refusing to sign a new deal at Turf Moor.

And with Rafael Benitez keen to make some early transfer inroads, the Magpies are also set to trigger Brazilian midfielder Gabriel Pires’ €6m release clause.

Benitez is hoping to sign at least six players capable of making an immediate impact on the first team this summer, with Gray and Bournemouth’s Joshua King currently his leading attacking targets.

Gray’s contractual situation makes him an especially appealing option, with the 25-year-old due to enter the final year of his current deal this summer. Burnley officials have tried to tie him down to a new contract, but his refusal to agree to their proposed terms has significantly increased the likelihood of him moving elsewhere once the transfer window reopens.

Burnley cannot afford to lose him for nothing in 12 months’ time, and Newcastle officials will attempt to exploit their vulnerability by tabling a £12m offer.

Gray scored ten goals in all competitions as Burnley successfully retained their top-flight status this season, but while his current employers will be looking to receive as high a fee as possible if they look to sell, Mike Ashley’s willingness to pay Newcastle’s transfer fees up front could enable them to push through an agreement for a price that suits them.

Tottenham and West Ham have also been linked with a possible move for Gray, but the former are understood to have alternative attacking options they want to pursue first and the latter would ideally like a staggered fee with a series of add-ons.

Burnley manager Sean Dyche remains hopeful of retaining Gray, along with centre-half Michael Keane, who is also entering the final year of his current deal, although he accepts the Clarets will always be vulnerable to clubs targeting their leading stars.

“I’ve never been at this club and never had a rumour about someone,” admitted Dyche. “It’s nothing new to me. It’s a year-on-year situation.”

Newcastle’s scouting team have watched Gray on a number of occasions this season, and have also been regular observers of Gabriel, who plays with Spanish side Leganes.

The 23-year-old midfielder was a trainee with Juventus, although he did not make a senior appearance for the Champions League finalists. Having moved to Europe from his native Brazil, he spent time on loan at a number of lower-league Italian sides before joining Leganes.

His loan deal in Spain became a permanent transfer last summer, when he signed a three-year deal, and he has scored five goals in 34 La Liga appearances during the current campaign.

His Leganes contract contains a €6m release clause, and with Benitez keen to sign a creative midfielder capable of playing in a wide position or as a ‘number ten’, he features prominently on Newcastle’s list of summer targets.

Zenit St Petersburg have already been in contact with Leganes officials, but sources in Spain claim Gabriel has rejected the option of a move to Russia.

Benitez wants to move quickly this summer to maintain the momentum that carried Newcastle to the Championship title, and Magpies midfielder Jack Colback agrees it will be important to nurture a sense of continued progress ahead of the club’s return to the top-flight.

Colback claims Newcastle can take inspiration from the likes of Burnley and Bournemouth, who have established themselves in the top-flight after celebrating promotion, provided they build on the feel-good factor that was established in the Championship.

“You see teams going up and doing better now,” said the midfielder. “But you have to take the positive feeling around the place with you.

“The momentum is with us because winning the title was a great achievement for us. We'll see what happens in the summer in terms of recruitment, but the fans can hopefully look forward.”

With only six points separating eighth-placed Southampton and 17th-placed Watford in the final Premier League table, next season’s survival battle promises to be a closely-fought affair. Newcastle’s first priority will be to avoid the bottom three, and Colback claims they are already in a much better position than they were when they suffered the drop 12 months ago.

“It was hugely disappointing to go down, but I don’t think anyone is exempt from relegation in that league,” he said. “Obviously, you’ve got the top teams, but from ninth or tenth downwards, it’s a battle.

“We came up short. We should never have been relegated with the quality we had in the squad. But what we were lacking was the character, which we've got now. We bounced back at the first time of asking.”

As expected, Newcastle duo Matt Ritchie and Grant Hanley were both excluded from the Scotland squad for next month’s World Cup qualifier against England because of injuries carried over from the final month of the season.