RED BULL LEIPZIG are offering Newcastle United stiff competition in the battle to sign Inter Milan defender Valentino Lazaro.

Senior figures from the Bundesliga leaders met Lazaro’s representatives in Germany yesterday in an attempt to outmanoeuvre the Magpies in the race to land the versatile Austria international.

Leipzig tried to sign Lazaro from Hertha Berlin last summer, but the 23-year-old opted for a move to Inter instead.

However, things have not gone to plan at the San Siro, and Lazaro has accepted he will have to switch clubs again this month in an attempt to kick-start his career.

His lead agent, Max Hagmayr, was at St James’ Park on Saturday to watch Newcastle’s 1-0 win over Chelsea, and is understood to have discussed his position with the Magpies hierarchy.

However, Steve Bruce conceded a deal was still some way off being done when he spoke to the press yesterday morning, admitting he expected a final decision from Lazaro’s camp “within the next 24 or 48 hours”.

Newcastle remain hopeful the Austrian will choose to move to Tyneside, but sources in Germany claim Leipzig are becoming increasingly bullish about their own prospects of pulling off a deal.

“I was in Newcastle and we had talks, but there is no agreement yet,” said Hagmayr. “As for the future, we’ll see what happens over the next few days. There isn’t just Newcastle, he has other options.”

Newcastle are expected to confirm the loan signing of Nabil Bentaleb later today, having agreed a deal with Schalke for the Algerian midfielder.

Bentaleb will join the Magpies for the rest of the season, with a €10m agreement understood to be in place for a possible permanent move at the end of the campaign.