NEWCASTLE UNITED will step up their interest in Mbwana Samatta when the transfer window reopens at the turn of the year – but face a major battle over the in-demand Genk striker.

The Magpies have scouted Samatta on a number of occasions in the last 12 months, and are understood to have had representatives at Anfield on Tuesday night as the 26-year-old scored in Genk’s Champions League defeat to Liverpool.

The Tanzania international was one of European football’s breakthrough talents last season, scoring 25 goals to top the Jupiler League scoring charts as Genk were crowned Belgian champions.

He has continued his fine goalscoring form this season, netting six times in 13 league games, and is expected to move on in January, with Genk officials resigned to his departure.

His current contract features a £10m release clause, making him an extremely attractive target for clubs across the continent.

Newcastle have already lodged an interest, with Steve Bruce desperate to add to his attacking options. With Andy Carroll and Dwight Gayle both having struggled with injury problems in the opening month of the season, Bruce wants another centre-forward to challenge and push Joelinton in the second half of the campaign.

Samatta would fit the bill, but West Ham United are also expected to make a move when the transfer window reopens as they look to recruit an alternative to Sebastien Haller.

Crystal Palace have also been credited with an interest, while the German media have suggested up to three Bundesliga clubs have also been in touch with Samatta’s representatives.

As well as looking to recruit in January, Newcastle officials will also be hoping to make progress with their ongoing contract talks involving a number of players currently involved in the first-team squad.

Discussions with Sean and Matty Longstaff are close to reaching a resolution, while Jonjo Shelvey is also expected to agree terms on a new deal soon. However, a number of issues remain unresolved, with Karl Darlow, Rob Elliot, Federico Fernandez, Javier Manquillo and Ki Sung-yueng all due to become free agents next summer, and Ciaran Clark, Fabian Schar, Matt Ritchie and Isaac Hayden all set to reach the end of their current agreements in the summer of 2021.

Hayden’s contractual position has been the subject of considerable debate for the best part of two years, with the midfielder having previously submitted a formal transfer request in an attempt to force through a move away from Tyneside.

His desire to move on was driven by family reasons, but his personal position has changed in the last six months, increasing hopes he will be willing to sign a new deal with Newcastle.

Steve Bruce wants to keep him, but having returned from a three-game ban in last weekend’s win at West Ham, Hayden wants to focus on cementing a first-team starting spot before he turning his attention to longer-term issues.

“At the minute, I’m just more focused on playing,” said Hayden. “At the end of the day, whenever you get a red card, the only thing on your mind is returning to the team or making a contribution in whatever way you can. That’s what I’ve done.”

Having claimed their third victory of the season when they won at West Ham’s London Stadium six days ago, Newcastle could force their way into the top half of the table with a home win over Bournemouth tomorrow afternoon.

“I think it’s an important game in the context of our season because, if we win that game, the doom and gloom surrounding us lifts, especially before the international break,” said Hayden.