NEWCASTLE UNITED have made a formal inquiry to Chelsea about Armando Broja as they begin to line up alternative options to Hugo Ekitike.

The Magpies have agreed a fee with Reims for Ekitike, but have been unable to persuade the 20-year-old to commit to a move to Tyneside.

Plans were in place for the France Under-20 international to undergo a medical this week, but while Newcastle’s recruitment team were able to push through Nick Pope’s £12m move from Burnley without any hitches, their attempts to make similar progress with Ekitike led to considerable frustration.

Newcastle have not called time on their pursuit of the youngster, and remain in dialogue with Ekitike’s representatives and the hierarchy at Reims.

However, there is an acceptance that the current impasse cannot be allowed to remain in place forever, and Eddie Howe has been assessing the merits of alternative targets this week.

Newcastle have a long-standing interest in Dominic Calvert-Lewin, but Everton are not currently minded to sell the England international and, if they do, they will be charging a premium for a player with proven Premier League experience.

As a result, the Magpies have been focusing their attention on Broja, who made a positive impression during a loan spell at Southampton last season.

The 20-year-old Albania international joined Chelsea in February 2020 and spent the early part of his time with the Blues in the Netherlands on loan with Vitesse.

He signed a season-long loan deal with Southampton last summer, and scored nine goals in 38 appearances in all competitions as he established himself as one of Ralph Hasenhuttl’s preferred attacking options.

He has returned to Chelsea following the end of his loan agreement, and is due to return to pre-season training with the rest of Thomas Tuchel’s first-team squad next month.

However, there appears little chance of him becoming a regular starter with Chelsea next season, and the Blues are expected to listen to offers for his services, whether on loan or in a permanent deal.

West Ham United have expressed a strong interest, and David Moyes has held talks with the Chelsea hierarchy about taking Broja to the London Stadium.

Newcastle have now made an inquiry of their own though, and are prepared to take on West Ham in a transfer battle if they decide Broja is their best centre-forward option.

The Magpies scouted Nice forward Amine Gouiri on a number of occasions last season, and remain interested in the 22-year-old, who is an established France Under-21 international.