PAULO FONSECA has expressed a desire to become Newcastle United’s next manager, with the new regime at St James’ Park having held preliminary discussions with the Portuguese and his representatives.

Steve Bruce’s two-and-a-half year tenure as Newcastle boss finally came to an end yesterday morning, with the club releasing a statement to confirm he had left “by mutual consent” 13 days after Amanda Staveley’s consortium completed their successful buyout of Mike Ashley.

Graeme Jones has been appointed as “interim manager” and will preside over Saturday’s game at Crystal Palace with the assistance of Steve Agnew, Stephen Clemence, Ben Dawson and Simon Smith, all of whom were part of the coaching team under Bruce.

No timeframe has been placed on Jones’ spell of temporary control, and with Staveley and her advisors also contemplating a range of additional off-field changes, most notably the introduction of a technical or sporting director, there is a chance the Gateshead-born former assistant, who was part of Gareth Southgate’s England coaching team at this summer’s Euros, could remain in charge of a number of matches.

Eventually, though, Newcastle’s owners will appoint a long-term successor to Bruce, with Fonseca having become firmly established as the clear early front-runner in the last 24 hours.

Representatives of the new regime have contacted the former Roma boss and held preliminary discussions, with further talks expected to take place before the end of the week. However, Fonseca is just one of a number of candidates currently under consideration, with Staveley, in conjunction with Jamie Reuben and representatives of the Saudi Arabian PIF, yet to draw up a formal shortlist.

Fonseca came close to joining Tottenham this summer, only for talks to collapse, leading Spurs to turn to Nuno Espirito Santo instead. The 48-year-old has managed clubs in Portugal, Ukraine and Italy, and won the Ukrainian double in all three of his seasons in charge of Shakhtar Donetsk.

He then moved to Roma, and led the Italian side to a seventh-place finish in Serie A and the semi-finals of the Europa League, where they were beaten by Manchester United, before he departed at the end of last season and was replaced by Jose Mourinho. He is currently out of work, so could potentially move into the Newcastle hotseat relatively quickly without the need for a compensation fee.

He is far from the only candidate currently being considered, however, with Rangers boss Steven Gerrard, Villarreal manager Unai Emery and ex-Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe all known to have been discussed.

Gerrard is believed to be interested in the possibility of taking over on Tyneside, having won the Scottish title with Rangers last season, an achievement he is unlikely to be able to surpass at Ibrox. Emery won the Europa League with Villarreal last season, but sources in Spain claim he is eager to prove himself in the Premier League, with his only previous spell in England, in charge of Arsenal, having widely been regarded as a failure. Howe turned down the chance to take over at Celtic in the summer, but is keen to return to frontline management.

Bruce’s departure hardly came as a surprise, with Newcastle’s supporters having delivered their damning verdict on his tenure as they chanted for his dismissal in the closing stages of Sunday’s defeat to Tottenham.

His exit was confirmed in a club statement, which said: “Newcastle United can confirm that Steve Bruce has left his position as head coach by mutual consent.

“He leaves the Magpies after more than two years in charge, having steered the club to 13th and 12th-place finishes in the Premier League and reaching the quarter-final stage in both the Emirates FA Cup and Carabao Cup during his tenure.

“Newcastle United would like to place on record its gratitude to Steve for his contribution and wishes him well for the future.”

The statement continued: “Graeme Jones will lead the team on an interim basis, starting with Saturday’s trip to Crystal Palace, and will be supported by the coaching team of Steve Agnew, Stephen Clemence, Ben Dawson and Simon Smith.

“The process of recruiting a new head coach is under way and an appointment will be announced in due course. The club will not be making further comment at this time.”

Staveley and her husband, Mehrdad Goudoussi, were at Newcastle’s Little Benton training ground yesterday, and spoke to members of the playing and coaching staff to inform them of Bruce’s departure and lay out their plans for the immediate future.

The pair spoke to supporters as they drove away from the training complex, and within an hour or so of their departure, Allan Saint-Maximin was taking to social media to issue a heartfelt tribute to Bruce’s work as Newcastle boss.

“You are, without a doubt, one of the most gentle people that I have ever met in the world of football,” wrote Saint-Maximin, on his personal Twitter account. “You have been a man of your word, a caring man and a fair man who never hesitated to protect us. I will never forget how you treated me, for that I will be forever grateful.”