NEWCASTLE UNITED’S hopes of re-signing Salomon Rondon have suffered a major blow, with French giants Marseille having made a formal inquiry about the striker.

Marseille boss Andre Villas-Boas is planning major changes as he prepares for his first season in charge at the Stade Velodrome, and has identified Rondon as one of his leading attacking targets.

The 29-year-old forward is currently on international duty with Venezuela – he played in Saturday’s goalless draw with Peru in the Copa America – but is expected to resolve his club future once his spell with his national side is at an end.

He will leave West Brom on a permanent basis this summer, with his contractual buyout clause set at £16.5m in the wake of the Baggies’ failure to win promotion, and has previously expressed a desire to rejoin Newcastle.

West Brom would like to do business with Newcastle as their new manager, Slaven Bilic, wants to engineer a swap deal that would see Dwight Gayle return to the Hawthorns after a successful loan spell last season.

Rondon enjoyed a successful loan period of his own on Tyneside, scoring 12 goals in all competitions as he established himself as Rafael Benitez’s first-choice striker.

Benitez would like to sign Rondon permanently this summer, but Newcastle owner Mike Ashley is understood to have serious reservations about a deal. Rondon turns 30 in September, and Ashley does not want to offer a long-term deal to anyone in their 30s.

To further complicate matters, Benitez’s own future is clouded in uncertainty, with his current contract still due to expire on June 30.

With Newcastle either unwilling or unable to make a move, a number of other clubs have sounded out Rondon’s representatives. West Ham, Wolves and Fenerbahce have all expressed an interest, and now Marseille have also joined the race.

The Ligue 1 club can offer Europa League football after finishing fifth in the French top-flight last season, and would have no problem matching Rondon’s current earnings at the Hawthorns.