CLAUDIO RANIERI has become the latest big-name candidate to express an interest in replacing Rafael Benitez as manager of Newcastle United.

Ranieri joins Laurent Blanc, David Moyes and Giovanni van Bronckhorst in signalling his desire to take over at St James’ Park.

Lee Charnley has been charged with the task of leading the search for Rafael Benitez’s successor, and the managing director is set to spend the rest of the week sounding out potential options and compiling a shortlist.

Charnley and Mike Ashley hope to have completed an appointment before Newcastle’s first-team squad fly to China for the Premier League Asia Trophy in the middle of next month.

Ranieri won the 2015-16 Premier League title with Leicester City, but his last job in English football came to an end when he left Fulham towards the end of last season.

The Italian was unable to keep Fulham out of the relegation zone, and the Cottagers’ demotion to the Championship was eventually confirmed on the watch of his successor, Scott Parker.

Ranieri, who ended last season with a brief spell at Roma, is keen to make a swift return to English football, and has instructed his representatives to make formal contact with Newcastle officials.

Jose Mourinho is still the favourite in most bookmakers’ markets to get the job, although there has been strong support for former Sunderland manager Moyes this morning.