LEICESTER CITY are ready to offer Rafael Benitez an escape route from Newcastle United in the summer, with the Spaniard looking increasingly likely to move on in the wake of yet another bitterly disappointing transfer window.

Benitez has resigned himself to a low-key few days ahead of Thursday’s transfer deadline, despite Newcastle’s failure to sign a single player since the window reopened at the start of the month.

The Magpies have rekindled their interest in Antonio Barreca after a proposed loan deal for Lazio’s Jordan Lukaku collapsed on Friday night, and the Monaco full-back is expected to sign in the next couple of days.

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However, the club’s interest in Miguel Almiron remains at an impasse with Mike Ashley refusing to meet Atlanta United’s $25m asking price for the Paraguayan forward, and Newcastle’s owner remains extremely reluctant to invest significant sums into the playing squad while he attempts to sell up.

Benitez is adamant he will not walk away mid-season, and remains determined to ensure Newcastle achieve Premier League survival in the final four months of the current campaign, but his future beyond the summer is in major doubt.

He has refused to discuss a new contract at St James’ Park, and is understood to be at the top of Leicester’s wanted list if, as looks increasingly likely, they dispense with the services of Claude Puel before the start of next season.

Puel’s position has been vulnerable for a number of weeks, with the Leicester hierarchy concerned at a run of indifferent results and suggestions that the Frenchman is at loggerheads with a number of influential senior players.

Benitez has rebuffed approaches from a number of overseas clubs during his time in charge of Newcastle, but an offer from Leicester would make obvious appeal given the club’s position in the top half of the Premier League and the King Power Stadium board’s proven track record for substantial investment into the playing squad in the last few years.

Benitez wants to stay in England, having enjoyed his time in the North-East, but he also wants to lead a club he feels has a realistic chance of challenging for silverware in the next few seasons. Under Ashley, Newcastle show no sign of shifting from their current parsimonious approach.

They failed to reach the fifth round of the FA Cup for the 12th season in a row at the weekend, with second-half goals from Andre Gray and Isaac Success condemning them to a 2-0 defeat to Watford.

Benitez cut a disconsolate figure in the wake of his side’s latest home reverse, and steadfastly kept up his recent approach of refusing to discuss transfer matters despite the dramatic collapse of Lukaku’s proposed move late on Friday night.

“I will not talk too much about this,” said Benitez, when he was asked whether the next few days will have a major bearing on Newcastle’s future. “I have been talking about this for the last two years. I will just try to concentrate on the Manchester City game.”

In an increasingly tetchy discussion, he was asked whether he was really happy to be leaving transfer matters to other people, and he responded: “I will concentrate on the Man City game.”

When he was pressed again on the imminent transfer deadline, he said: “I will not talk about the transfer window, you have to ask, but you know my position. I can talk about transfers, but I don’t want to. I have nothing to say.”

That hardly sounds like a manager who is happy in his current position, and while it would cost Benitez around £6m to break his current contract, he will be free to leave for nothing in the summer.

Leicester are aware of his contractual situation, hence their unwillingness to move now. Puel will be given a chance to prove himself in the second half of the season, but a move for Benitez is anticipated if results do not improve in the next four months, along with a shift in the general mood at the King Power Stadium.

The mood on Tyneside is threatening to boil over, and while a loan deal for Barreca would at least provide some much-needed competition in the left-back berth, it would barely meet the minimum requirements of a squad that lacks quality in a number of areas.

Lukaku’s transfer collapsed on Friday night when problems emerged with the Belgian’s medical, and Newcastle’s recruitment team immediately rekindled their interest in Barreca, having spoken to the 23-year-old earlier in the week.

Thierry Henry’s dismissal as Monaco boss has complicated the situation slightly, but Barreca does not have a long-term future with his current employers and will still be allowed to leave.

The Italian joined Monaco from Torino last summer, but has made just seven Ligue 1 starts in the current campaign.

Newcastle were linked with a possible move for Manchester United defender Antonio Valencia over the weekend, but Ashley will not sanction an approach to a 33-year-old who is understood to be earning around £100,000-a-week at Old Trafford.

Personal terms have been agreed with Almiron, but Atlanta continue to refuse to lower their asking price. Newcastle will not be raising their final offer of around £16m, so unless Atlanta shift their stance, it is impossible to see how a deal can be brokered ahead of Thursday night’s deadline.

Newcastle return to action when they host Premier League champions Manchester City tomorrow night, and Benitez is hoping Mo Diame will be available to return. However, Jonjo Shelvey and Ki Sung-yueng are both expected to be absent.

One transfer deal was completed over the weekend, with Magpies youngster Jamie Sterry rejoining Crewe Alexandra on a season-long loan.