NEWCASTLE UNITED’S pursuit of Hugo Ekitike has been boosted by Borussia Dortmund’s decision to table an opening bid for Ajax striker Sebastien Haller.

The Magpies have agreed a deal with Reims for Ekitike, and are willing to sign off on a package worth around €35m once add-ons are included, but have been unable to complete the transfer despite a series of discussions over the course of the last fortnight.

The major sticking point has been Ekitike’s reluctance to commit to a move to St James’ Park, with the 20-year-old having turned down the opportunity to join Newcastle in January in order to remain with Reims.

The striker is seeking assurances over the likely extent of his first-team involvement if he joins the Magpies next season, with Eddie Howe’s tendency to play with one central striker potentially limiting his involvement. Callum Wilson is firmly established as Newcastle’s first-choice striker, which could mean Ekitike having to play in a wide-attacking position next term.

Ekitike’s failure to commit to a move to Tyneside has been influenced, in part, by ongoing interest from Borussia Dortmund, with his agent, Karl Mwalako Buchmann, understood to have been in regular dialogue with the Bundesliga club.

Dortmund have been looking for replacements for Erling Haaland, who joined Manchester City at the start of this month, and having already signed exciting youngster Karim Adeyemi from Red Bull Salzburg, the German side have now turned their attentions to Haller.

Dortmund officials have tabled a €33m offer for Haller, who has successfully resurrected his career with Ajax in the last two seasons after a cutting short a difficult spell with West Ham.

Haller has scored 47 goals in 65 games with Ajax, and while Dortmund’s initial offer has not been accepted, talks continue with the Dutch media reporting that a deal could be close.

If Dortmund sign Haller, their interest in Ekitike will be over, which should make it easier for Newcastle to persuade the France Under-20 international to travel to Tyneside in order to undergo a medical and finalise his move to the Premier League.

Paris St Germain have been linked with a possible move, but at this stage, the Ligue 1 champions are yet to make a formal approach to Reims, who finished 12th in the French top-flight last season.

Ekitike, who is currently on a post-season holiday, celebrates his 20th birthday today, and his agent’s message to his client on Instagram suggests that a resolution to the long-running transfer saga could be close.

“Happy 20 son,” wrote Buchmann. “We’ll make sure every single one remembers your name! It has already started…”

Newcastle have been discussing potential alternatives to Ekitike, with Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin currently regarded as their preferred back-up option.

Calvert-Lewin suffered an injury-plagued season last term, and there is a growing expectation that the England international will move on this summer in an attempt to get his career back on track.

He has three years of his contract remaining, and Everton boss Frank Lampard is still weighing up his options as he decides what to do with his attacking department this summer. Richarlison is also attracting interest, and it is unlikely that Lampard would want to lose both of his frontline forwards in the same transfer window.

Newcastle have not tabled an offer for Calvert-Lewin, but are ready to step up their interest if they decide to draw a line under their Ekitike talks. As things stand, however, the situation has not reached that stage.