NEWCASTLE UNITED are prepared to target Fulham full-back Joe Bryan regardless of whether Rafa Benitez extends his stay on Tyneside.

The 25-year-old defender has been monitored closely by the Magpies over the last couple of years and the Cottagers’ relegation to the Championship has raised the prospect of him leaving.

Bryan only moved to West London last August when Fulham pipped competition for his signature by paying Bristol City £6m for him.

Newcastle were one of those clubs interested in him but there was a reluctance to spend money on the squad before players were offloaded.

A shortage in the left-back area was never really solved and Newcastle made a January move for Monaco’s Antonio Barreca.

That loan deal, with a view to an £8m switch this summer, did not prove successful and he only appeared on the bench three times so has been told he will be returning to France.

Newcastle are now looking at that area to strengthen again and Bryan, who the club’s scouting and recruitment team know all about, is prominent in their thinking.

Benitez, who has had further talks this week and more are expected on Friday, is still to sign an extension but there have still been discussions about possible signings.

Bryan is one of those who Newcastle know Benitez likes, while he is also a relatively young man who has the potential to increase his resale value in line with how owner Mike Ashley likes to operate.

The Bristolian, who had spells on loan with Plymouth and Bath before establishing himself in the first team at Ashton Gate, now has the experience of Premier League football behind him.

He played 30 times for Fulham during a campaign that ended in relegation and the Cottagers would like to keep him but would have to consider offers if they arrived.

Fulham’s preference is to cash in on the Aleksandar Mitrovic and Ryan Sessegnon, who they value at the £30m and £40m mark respectively.

Newcastle fans are expecting to hear sooner rather than later whether Benitez has reached an agreement over fresh terms with Ashley.

And, even though there has not been any immediate rush to get things tied up on either part, the signs are encouraging after Benitez’s representatives are understood to have informed Roma and Marseille that he is not interested in either post.

Marseille’s interest in the Spaniard has been mentioned already In recent weeks, but the departure of Rudi Garcia has heightened their interest.

Benitez, though, has not given them much encouragement and reports in France claim that he has told Marseille he is focused on trying to sign a new deal at St James’ Park.

Benitez and Ashley had a meeting last Friday and the dialogue has continued since then. Neither party is concerned by the length it is taking to get things wrapped up and those talks look set to carry over into next week.