NEWCASTLE UNITED will continue to play hardball over their pursuit of Miguel Almiron – even if it means they risk missing out on the Paraguay international.

Rafael Benitez made Almiron his number one January transfer target more than two months ago, but despite a series of discussions involving Newcastle officials, Almiron’s representatives and the hierarchy at the forward’s current MLS employers, Atlanta United, an agreement is not believed to be imminent.

As has been the case with countless proposed transfer deals involving Mike Ashley, finances are the cause of the impasse, with Newcastle steadfastly refusing to meet either Atlanta’s asking price for Almiron or the South American’s wage demands.

Atlanta president, Darren Eales, recently stated he would only consider selling the 24-year-old if the fee ‘starts with a three’, which would mean Newcastle demolishing their long-standing transfer record, which remains the £16m that was paid to sign Michael Owen in 2005.

As things stand, there seems little desire to make such a significant investment when Ashley remains keen to sell up, and the Magpies’ rulers are also refusing to match Almiron’s wage requirements.

The play-maker is understood to be demanding more than £100,000-a-week, which would make him Newcastle’s highest-paid player. Both Ashley and managing director Lee Charnley regard that request as excessive, although given the rate of wage increase that has been seen in the Premier League in the last few years, it is probably now no more than the going rate for a player valued at more than £20m.

Agents fees are proving another obstacle, but Newcastle’s recruitment team are adamant they will not be caving in ahead of the transfer deadline at the end of the month, even if that means having to admit defeat an allow Almiron to move elsewhere.

Benitez’s downbeat mood in the last couple of weeks suggests he has come to regard such a scenario as a strong possibility, and while he has always maintained he has a list of targets in a range of different price brackets, the Newcastle boss will be understandably frustrated that this month’s transfer window already looks like following a grimly familiar pattern.

With Peter Kenyon’s proposed takeover still no nearer a successful resolution despite the emergence of a letter suggesting talks remain ongoing, Benitez is braced for more disappointment on the transfer front. Missing out on Almiron would be a major blow, as the Spaniard felt he had successfully laid the ground work for a swift deal.

Given the high level of uncertainty about who, if anyone, will be joining this month, Benitez has blocked West Brom’s attempts to sign Isaac Hayden.

Hayden submitted a formal transfer request in the summer in an unsuccessful attempt to force through a move away from Tyneside, and reiterated his desire to leave the North-East when he spoke in the wake of last week’s home defeat to Manchester United.

While he would prefer to join a club in the south in order to be near his partner and young daughter, he would consider a move to West Brom as a possible compromise, and Baggies officials have made contact with their counterparts at Newcastle to discuss a deal.

However, Benitez will not be allowing any of his first-team players to leave unless he is certain he has a cast-iron replacement in place, and at the moment, that is not the situation with anyone.

As things stand, the only movement is occurring at Under-23 level, with changes afoot in the wake of Tuesday’s Checkatrade Trophy defeat to Sunderland.

Liam Gibson was involved in the game at the Stadium of Light, but with Newcastle’s Checkatrade interest now over, the young full-back is set to join League One side Accrington Stanley on loan.

The Magpies have confirmed the return of Josef Yarney and Luke Charman after loan spells at Morecambe and Accrington respectively, and will not be rushing to loan out Elias Sorensen, who has been in prolific goalscoring form at Under-23 level this season.

A number of Football League clubs have inquired about Sorensen, who left Tyneside yesterday to join up with Denmark Under-21s for a training camp, but Newcastle are in no rush to send him away. “We need to make sure that if he does go out on loan, it’s the right place for him,” said Under-21s boss Ben Dawson.

Meanwhile, Tottenham’s home game with Newcastle on February 2 will be staged at Wembley after the North London club confirmed their redeveloped stadium at White Hart Lane will not be ready in time.