NEWCASTLE UNITED have been told to break the club’s transfer record by paying £27m for Nice striker Alassane Plea - or risk losing out to West Ham United.

Sources in France claim Plea is believed to be interested in a move to Tyneside, but the Magpies have only offered around the £15m mark so far.

West Ham have expressed a greater willingness to meet the asking price so that new managerial appointment Manuel Pellegrini gets the forward he wants this summer.

Newcastle are ready to make a fresh move for him although Rafa Benitez does have back up plans, with West Brom’s Salomon Rondon and Feynenoord’s Nicolai Jorgensen still very much in his thinking.

Rondon is the most achievable at this stage given he has a release clause in his contract that allows him to leave the Hawthorns for £16.5m following relegation from the Premier League.

But the 28-year-old, who does offer the work-rate and attacking power Benitez likes to have in his squad, is a few years older than Plea, 25, who is hot property after shining in Ligue 1 last season where he scored 21 goals.

Newcastle have stepped up efforts to sign new players this week having only signed Martin Dubravka and Ki Sung-Yueng so far.

Benitez wanted more new players on board before pre-season starts on Friday but has not been able to do so. He is now looking for things to move forward quickly, knowing his squad heads for Ireland later this month for the next stage of pre-season.

Newcastle continue to have Juventus midfielder Stefano Sturaro under consideration and the Italians are ready to give him the go-ahead to leave - even though the player is no longer highest in Benitez's thinking.

The 25-year-old is a hard-working central midfielder and it has been suggested in Turin that Juve are ready to to do a deal with Newcastle for £13.2m.

West Ham have also shown an interest in Sturaro in the past and Newcastle – also keeping an eye on Leipzig’s Danish defender Yussuf Poulsen - will weigh up whether to increase a previous offer of around £11.4m they made in a previous window.

If Newcastle did act and Sturaro did arrive he would add further competition for the central midfield slots which Mo Diame and Jonjo Shelvey mainly occupied last season. Mikel Merino is nearing an exit though.

Ki is another option now and he has revealed since returning to South Korea that he could be ready to quit international football after his country’s World Cup exit, despite beating Germany 2-0.

That could be good news for Newcastle because the Koreans are due to play in the Asia Cup in January,

The 29-year-old has stayed in the Premier League after moving from Swansea as a free agent after relegation.

Ki, who played 104 times for South Korea, said: “I can't confirm whether I will certainly retire as I cannot make the decision on my own. But I did organise my thoughts to some extent. For the last four years as a captain, I felt responsible for not leading this team well.

“I saw many coaches come and go and felt considerable responsibility on my shoulders as a captain, so that really tired me out. But I haven't made up my mind yet. I will announce it when the time comes.

“When I started to play in Europe, I cared about the national team whenever I made decisions. Until now, I've sacrificed for my national team, and I considered my national team important, so I had picked a club where I can play many games. Now the World Cup is over, and I don't have to do it that way.”