ALAN Pardew has admitted Newcastle United’s interest in Darren Bent.
But the club is also exploring “three or four” options in its search for a striker.
Aston Villa are keen to offload unwanted Bent, who cost them £18m two and a half years ago.
However, Bent’s reported £6m price tag is too much for United given his age - he will turn 30 this coming season - and the sizeable wages he would command.
And Newcastle are yet to harden up their interest in the England international, who has been told by Villa manager Paul Lambert that he will not be involved in the club’s pre-season campaign.
Pardew, back at work after his summer holiday, has confirmed the club’s interest in the former Sunderland player, who he worked with during his time as Charlton Athletic manager.
“The obvious target at the moment is a striker, and we have four or five targets,” Pardew said.
“It’s difficult. I know there’s been speculation, particularly about Darren Bent.
“I think I can comment on that because it sounds like at Aston Villa, he’s not particularly involved.
“There is an interest in Darren, and there is an interest in three or four other players, who I shouldn’t name because of their situations at their current clubs.
“When managers talk about my players, I think it’s wrong, so I’m certainly not going to do it.”
It remains to be seen if new director of football Joe Kinnear recommends a move for Bent to owner Mike Ashley, who has previously insisted on the club signing younger players with a resale value.
That insistence has seen the club, under the astute guidance of chief scout Graham Carr, delve heavily into the French market.
And United are again looking at targets in the country.
Last week, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang - who was the subject of interest from Newcastle - joined last season’s Champions League finalists Borussia Dortmund from Saint Etienne.
Meanwhile, it is understood Manchester City winger Scott Sinclair is interested in a move to Newcastle - but the 24-year-old could be out of their price range.
The odds on Sinclair joining the club, previously 40/1, were yesterday slashed to 1/4 by one bookmaker.
Pardew signed Sinclair on loan at Charlton, and is an admirer of the player, who can play on the left side of midfield or up front.
He hardly played for City last season after a £6.2m from Swansea City, and is keen to play regular football next season.
However, much would depend on City’s valuation of Sinclair, who started his career at Chelsea.