Newcastle in for ex-Sunderland striking target

Rafa Benitez is targeting Sebastien Haller of Utrecht

Rafa Benitez is targeting Sebastien Haller of Utrecht

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Newcastle United are targeting Sebastien Haller – but face a battle to sign him.

Rafa Benitez wants to bring the Utrecht striker, who was tracked by Sunderland in January’s transfer window, to St James’s Park.

But Haller is also interesting Premier League clubs – Everton and Tottenham have been linked with him – and Monaco and Sporting Lisbon are also keen on the 22-year-old.

The France Under-21 international is understood to be interested in a switch to Monaco.

Haller, also open to a move to a Bundesliga club, would need to be persuaded that Newcastle was the right move for him.

Magpie manager Benitez needs another target man to compete with Aleksandar Mitrovic – who has missed the Tynesiders’ first three Championship games through suspension – for a place in his team. Haller – who scored 24 goals for Utrecht last season – would cost upwards of £6million.

Summer signing Matt Ritchie says Benitez has the answers to Newcastle’s problems.

Ritchie scored his first Magpie goal in the 4-1 midweek win over Reading, after defeats in the opening two Championship matches.

Now the black and whites head to Bristol City tomorrow, with Ritchie feeling that Benitez’s work on the training ground is now starting to show on the pitch.

“We certainly didn’t lose the first two and just wonder why,” said the winger.

“We analysed, the manager analysed, and that’s why the manager is the manager – because he’s so good at it.

“The way way analysed, we worked hard during the week on some triggers and we showed in our play that we looked like we had good structure in attack, we built attacks well, we counter-attacked well as well.

“All in all it was a very good performance but it’s very early days. It’s three points, but we need to go again on Saturday because Bristol are a good side.”

Ritchie believes the Reading win has settled the nerves – in the dressing room and in the stands.

“There were some big question marks over us after not winning the first two games, and we’ve answered those hopefully,” said the 26-year-old

Ex-Magpie keeper Steve Harper has returned to Newcastle – as a goalkeeping coach – and ended his playing career.