Rafa Benitez has reportedly made Stoke captain Ryan Shawcross Newcastle’s top target this summer if they secure a return to the Premier League.
The Spanish manager is targeting six new recruits this summer to help the Magpies cope with life back in the top flight, with Shawcross topping the list.
The Telegraph report that Benitez is looking to build his team around a solid centre-back and the potters star is seen as the ideal man for the role.
Newcastle’s current defensive partnership of Ciaran Clark and Jamaal Lascelles have impressed in their Championship campaign, but Benitez believes a man with vast Premier League experience at the back will be crucial.
Although Shawcross is still a key player at the Bet365 Stadium, the 29-year-old will have just one year remaining on his current contract in the summer.
And with no fresh terms on the table, Benitez is confident he can lure the former Manchester United man to St James’ Park.
Shawcross is approaching a decade at Stoke, originally joining the Potters on loan in 2007. The then-19-year-old was signed on permanent basis for £1million from the Red Devils five months later and has gone on to make 374 appearances.
Newcastle have almost secured an instant return to the Premier League, currently sitting 2nd in the Championship. Benitez’s men need just nine more points from their remaining five games to confirm promotion and face Leeds United at home on Friday before heading to Ipswich on Easter Monday.