NEWCASTLE UNITED are confident they will get the £20m asking price for striker Dwight Gayle, regardless of whether Rafa Benitez stays in charge beyond this month.

While the chances of Benitez walking away has increased because of the growing frustration he is said to be feeling at the lack of progress over new contract talks, the Magpies have learned of another club being interested in landing Gayle.

Stoke City have now joined Fulham in the race for the former Crystal Palace man, with both Championship clubs willing to give Newcastle what they want for the player.

Stoke look best placed at this stage to strike a deal because they are seemingly willing to do the deal regardless of what happens, as they are due a further parachute payment from the Premier League. The Potters also expect to receive a fee of around £30m for goalkeeper Jack Butland this summer.

Fulham’s interest in Gayle is well known after it emerged West Brom are unlikely to be in a position to match the asking price, although the Cottagers’ efforts to land him could be determined by the futures of Aleksandar Mitrovic and Stephane Sessegnon.

West Brom also want the Newcastle front-man back at The Hawthorns but that rests on Salomon Rondon returning to Tyneside. There remains reluctance in the boardroom at St James’ Park to pay the £16.5m contract clause for a player who turn 30 next season.

Ashley and Newcastle still have strict ideas about who Newcastle should be targeting and Rondon does not fall into the category of paying hefty transfer fees for players whose value should increase.

That is one of the directives from above that Benitez has sought movement on before he commits to a new deal, and his expiration date of June 30 on his existing contract is rapidly approaching.

The Spaniard has been at the club’s training ground working on what he can but sources close to him insist that he is far from happy about the situation.

While there has been a previous calmness from both sides, a lack of apparent progress surrounding Sheikh Khaled’s attempts to buy out Ashley has meant that concerns have grown as the possibility of Benitez leaving edges closer.

It is now 21 days since the Sheikh’s Bin Zayed Group claimed to have agreed terms to buy Newcastle but the Premier League insist the group has still not reached the stage to start the owners and directors test.

Only then will the process begin to pass that test, so it looks unlikely that a breakthrough on that front will have arrived before June 30.

That would mean Benitez officially stepping down as Newcastle man ager if there has not been an agreement reached with Ashley.

The Newcastle owner is believed to have offered Benitez a short term deal while the situation goes on. The former Liverpool manager, though, is still to hear that his demands to have a defined budget and given more freedom in the transfer market, and that is what he wants to consider staying on.

This week’s news that Chinese club Dalian Yifang have offered him £1m a year to head to the Far East is further evidence that clubs believe Benitez could be on his way. Roma and Marseille have already been interested since the end of the season.

Ashley is believed to have suggested there would be £50m to spend during the summer transfer window, but Benitez wants greater assurances on that front over the longer term. He has had to work under tight financial constraints and guidelines since taking over three years ago, even though he has delivered promotion and back-to-back successful fights to beat the drop in the Premier League.  Hoffenheim’s striker Joelinton is on the Newcastle radar and he is valued at £40m on his own, although the Brazilian falls in the younger age bracket. Rennes’ 21-year-old Ismaila Sarr, rated at £36m by his club, is another being linked with the Magpies after Watford’s £20m bid was rejected.

It was only in January when Newcastle broke their transfer record for the first time under Ashley to acquire Miguel Almiron from Atlanta United. There was a feeling on Tyneside that was long overdue, particularly after last summer’s £20m profit from player trading.