NEWCASTLE UNITED have initiated talks over a summer move for Jesse Lingard, but face intense competition from a host of leading European clubs as they look to pull off a free-transfer move for the Manchester United midfielder.

Lingard’s contract is due to expire this summer, and while incoming Manchester United boss Erik ten Haag would have the option of offering a new deal, the England international has decided it is time to move on and end his 22-year association with the Old Trafford club.

Newcastle tried to sign Lingard on a number of occasions in January, but while the Magpies were hoping to secure a loan deal, and were willing to pay a hefty sum to sign the 29-year-old for the remainder of the season, Manchester United officials were adamant they would only agree to a permanent departure.

The Old Trafford hierarchy softened their stance on deadline day, but are reported to have demanded a £2.5m loan fee and a £12.5m bonus that would be due if Newcastle stayed up.

The Magpies’ recruitment team therefore called off discussions, and Lingard remained at Old Trafford, but Eddie Howe remains a strong admirer and is keen to add the midfielder to his squad this summer.

Preliminary talks are understood to have taken place between Lingard’s representatives and senior Newcastle officials, with the St James’ Park hierarchy reaffirming their interest.

However, a number of other leading clubs have also registered a desire to pull off a deal of their own, with AC Milan, Paris St Germain, Juventus and West Ham all known to be interested.

Lingard wants to compete at the highest level possible, but is also desperate to win back his place in Gareth Southgate’s England squad for this winter’s World Cup in Qatar.

He needs to be playing regular first-team football to have any chance of returning to the international fold, and Newcastle will be hoping the lack of international recognition for other high-profile English players who have moved abroad in the last couple of years will help persuade him to remain in the Premier League.

Tammy Abraham and Fikayo Tomori have had extremely successful seasons at Roma and AC Milan respectively, but neither has been able to force their way back into Southgate’s plans.

West Ham enjoy strong links with Lingard, with the Manchester United academy product having enjoyed a successful loan spell at the London Stadium in the second half of last season.

Depending on what happens in this evening’s Europa League semi-final second leg against Eintracht Frankfurt, the Hammers may find themselves in a position where they can offer Champions League football next season, a scenario that would be a major pull.

However, Newcastle’s recruitment team will be hoping their own surge up the table in the second half of the season will persuade Lingard they are an upwardly-mobile club with European aspirations of their own in the not-too-distant future.

Thanks to the ongoing backing of their ownership group, which is 80 per cent controlled by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), Newcastle will also be confident of being able to match any financial offer that is tabled by West Ham or any other European side holding discussions with Lingard and his representatives this summer.

Newcastle have also been heavily linked with Paulo Dybala, with the striker having rejected the offer of a new deal at Juventus.

Like Lingard, Dybala will move as a free agent this summer, with Newcastle and Tottenham both having been touted as potential destinations.

Last month, it was claimed in the Italian press that Dybala had already agreed a deal with Inter Milan, but the Argentinian’s agent, Jorge Antun, insists that is not the case.

“No agreement has been reached with any club, in Italy or abroad,” said Antun.