Unai Emery has confirmed Newcastle have shown “interest” in him becoming their next manager.
Newcastle’s new owners have identified Villarreal boss Emery as a potential successor to Steve Bruce as they step up their efforts to appoint a new manager.
It is understood the former Arsenal manager sits at the top of a whittled-down shortlist of candidates for the vacancy created at St James’ Park when head coach Bruce left the club by mutual consent on October 20.
“The only certain thing is that Newcastle have shown an interest,” Emery said after Villarreal’s 2-0 Champions League win over Young Boys on Tuesday night.
“But I have not had more news than that interest.
“There’s no offer. The offer would have to be via the club. I am focused on Villarreal. No more than that.
“Before saying yes or not, I will talk to the club. I have not said ‘no’ to Newcastle.”
Eddie Howe, Roberto Martinez, Antonio Conte – who has since been appointed Tottenham boss – Paulo Fonseca and Brendan Rodgers are among those to also have been linked with the post.
The 49-year-old Spaniard, who has also managed Valencia, Sevilla and Paris St Germain, was appointed by Villarreal on a three-year deal in July last year.
Emery led the ‘Yellow Submarine’ to a seventh-place LaLiga finish and Europa League glory in his first season.
It is understood Newcastle are hopeful Emery could be in charge for their trip to Brighton this weekend, although a compensation package amounting to around £6million must be agreed before any deal is struck.
After beating Young Boys, Villarreal are second in their Champions League group, level on points with Manchester United, the team they beat in a dramatic penalty shoot-out to lift the Europa League trophy at the end of last season.
On the domestic front, they have endured a testing start to the season and lie 13th in LaLiga having collected 12 points from their first 11 games.
Bruce’s assistant Graeme Jones has taken charge of the Newcastle team since the 60-year-old’s departure and has presided over a 1-1 draw at Crystal Palace and Saturday’s 3-0 home defeat by leaders Chelsea.
That has left the Magpies, who are yet to win a Premier League game in 10 attempts this season, in 19th place and six points adrift of safety.
They travel to the south coast on Saturday evening with the need for a permanent manager more pressing by the day.
However, the club’s owners have studiously avoided making a hasty appointment and have done their homework in an attempt to get the right man for the job.