Newcastle United's determined quest to add a new striker to their ranks before Wednesday night's (31 January) looming transfer deadline has taken them to the Czech Republic, with reports claiming that they are on the trail of Viktoria Plzen's Michael Krmencik.
The Magpies, after months of uncertainty regarding a potential takeover of the club that left manager Rafael Benitez in the dark as to his available budget, finally succeeded in strengthening a squad still dominated by players that helped them to win the Championship title last season, securing the signing of versatile left-sided player Kenedy from Chelsea.
Attention then quickly turned to boosting an undermanned striking unit that have flattered to deceive so far this term. Divisive owner Mike Ashley - who reportedly gave the green light to as many as three new arrivals despite the breakdown in takeover talks with Amanda Staveley's PCP Capital Partners - had even said to be willing to break a Newcastle transfer record that has stood since the £17m ($23.9m) arrival of Michael Owen from Real Madrid in 2005.
Denmark international Nicolai Jorgensen was established as their principal target, yet opening offers worth £14m and £15m respectively have both been rejected by Feyenoord, who are believed to be holding out for £20m.
Feyenoord boss Giovanni van Bronckhorst has not ruled out the prospect of an agreement being reached this week, while it is claimed that the Eredivisie outfit have set a deadline of Monday [29 January] evening for an acceptable bid to be produced.
Daniel Sturridge has since emerged as a viable alternative to Jorgensen amid reports that Newcastle are in talks over a possible loan deal for the injury-prone Liverpool outcast, while the Mail report that they have also made an enquiry regarding £10m-rated Krmencik, who has scored 16 goals in 20 appearances across all competitions so far this season.
The publication adds that Benitez is hopeful of completing a deal for another Czech-based target in Sparta Prague's Slovakian goalkeeper Martin Dubravka, who would add competition to the duo of Karl Darlow and Rob Elliot and potentially allow England Under-20 World Cup winner Freddie Woodman to depart on loan amid interest from Scottish Premiership side Aberdeen.
Benitez said after Sunday's (28 January) 3-0 FA Cup fourth-round defeat to Chelsea that he remained confident of concluding more business before the deadline, but expressed his annoyance at not being able to get deals over the line earlier in the window.
He added that possible exits for Henri Saivet and Massadio Haidara would be "very difficult" to negotiate over the coming days, but suggested that Aleksandar Mitrovic could still have a future at St James' Park despite the ongoing striker search and his omission from the squad for that defeat in west London.
"If he stays here - he can play," Benitez said, per the Chronicle. "At the moment he is our player."
Brighton & Hove Albion saw an £8m bid for Mitrovic rejected last week, while West Bromwich Albion are another Premier League club said to be pursuing his signature along with several overseas teams including Ligue 1 pair Bordeaux and Marseille and former employers Anderlecht and Partizan Belgrade.
Speaking ahead of that FA Cup tie, Benitez joked that only an offer of £50m would make him consider changing his firm stance on not selling Mitrovic - or indeed any other players - to a top-flight rival.