NAPOLI are ready to do battle this summer with the clubs in Spain looking to prise Ayoze Perez away from Newcastle United.

The Spaniard’s 12-goal return in the Premier League this season has seen his value soar to greater heights than at any other stage of his career.

Rafa Benitez, who hinted last week that progress has been made on his own contract situation, would hope to keep £20m-rated Perez on Tyneside beyond this campaign.

But he knows there is growing interest, with Napoli having identified him as one of their leading attacking targets.

Sources in Naples have claimed the 25-year-old has been monitored in the second half of the season, when he has flourished to score the goals to help Newcastle stay in the top-flight.

Perez has previously suggested he will be interested in a new challenge at some stage in his career, leading to claims he would welcome a return to Spain. Real Betis are one of those keen.

He moved from Tenerife in June 2014 for £1m and has gone to make more than 150 appearances for Newcastle and he is expected to start again at Fulham on Sunday. Newcastle suffered frustration in their final home game on Saturday night when they lost 3-2, despite coming from behind twice against Liverpool.

Winger Christian Atsu has been back in Benitez’s starting line-up following the injury sustained by Miguel Almiron against Southampton. He found the net for the first time this season against Liverpool when Newcastle showed the fighting spirit to try to affect the Reds’ fight for the title. He thinks Newcastle have shown they have the mental toughness under Benitez.

The Ghana international said: “We have a great mentality and we believe as a squad. Rafa also says to us he doesn’t want to see any player putting his head down when a team scores against us.

“The manager is always encouraging us and, when they scored, you can see everyone encouraging each other. The team spirit we have is very strong, we work hard on that, and we kept on fighting, and we had some great chances we could have taken.”