NEWCASTLE UNITED are stepping up the search to improve their firepower as a Championship battle to lure Dwight Gayle away from St James’ Park hots up.

Swansea City have expressed their interest in the former Crystal Palace striker within the last few days, following news that Stoke City have made an early move for his services.

Both teams are determined to return to the Premier League at the first attempt following relegation and they view Gayle as an ideal man to hit the goals to fire a promotion charge.

Stoke’s offer, believed to be in the region of £10m, would have to be increased, while intriguingly Swansea’s interest presents the potential for a part-exchange deal.

The Swans are willing to let Jordan Ayew leave for around £13m and Newcastle have shown an interest in the past, so the link is already there.

The 26-year-old has been in England since leaving Lorient in 2015 when Aston Villa bought him for £8m. He moved to Swansea but is one of those they are looking to offload as they prepare for life outside the Premier League again.

Ayew can play anywhere in the final third and Newcastle are short in that area, particularly following the end of Kenedy’s loan from Chelsea and Islam Slimani returning to Leicester City.

Aleksandar Mitrovic is also likely to be sold this summer which would leave Newcastle with just Joselu if Gayle – who is quite keen to fight for his place – was moved on in the weeks ahead.

There has also reports of an interest in Lyon’s Jean-Philippe Mateta. The highly-rated 20-year-old forward spent last season on loan at Le Havre, scoring 19 in 16 league games. He has also attracted attention from Leicester, Everton and West Ham.

Up front is not the only area where they are looking to strengthen though and Newcastle’s long standing interest in Stefano Sturaro is being talked up again.

The 25-year-old could leave Juventus because of the competition for places there in the midfield area. Juve want £17.5m and Newcastle are believed to have offered around £11.4m.

Benitez is keen to bring in an extra midfielder or two, and the need for that would only increase if Mikel Merino was sold.

It seems increasingly likely that Merino will go this summer after losing his place in the Newcastle starting line-up in the second half of the season and growing interest in him from Spain.

It has long been expected that Athletic Bilbao would land his signature if they can reach an agreement over a fee, but now Real Sociedad and Real Betis are both keen to take him back to Spain.

Newcastle completed the permanent signing of him during the course of last season when they paid £8m for him to Borussia Dortmund, following an impressive start to his loan.

For Newcastle to sell this summer, though, there will have to be offers that represent a profit, so that the money can then be reinvested into the squad.