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Newcastle remain up for sale despite Mike Ashley calling time on current talks

Newcastle owner Mike Ashley has drawn a line under the club’s latest takeover saga – but it remains up for sale.

The Sports Direct tycoon put the Magpies back on the market in October 2017 and has since entered into negotiations with a series of potential buyers, to date to no avail.

Ashley raised the hopes of fans desperate to see a change of ownership at St James’ Park in December when he revealed he was in advanced talks with prospective purchasers after at least four consortia – one led by former Manchester united and Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon – made their interest known.

However, Press Association Sport understands he has lost patience with the lack of progress since and at the expense of engaging solicitors to process the necessary paperwork, including the non-disclosure agreements signed by both parties in each case.

In the circumstances, he is ready to call time on those discussions, just as he did when Amanda Staveley’s PCP Capital Partners attempted to mount a takeover in November 2017, and send out a message that he is only prepared to deal with those who can demonstrate that they have the funding in place to launch a genuine bid and the will to push it through.

It is understood that several of the most recent expressions of interest were made on the basis of securing finance following initial discussions, and that has simply not happened.

Sources close to Ashley have indicated he believes at least some have embarked upon “tyre-kicking” exercises, and that the will no longer entertain that kind of approach.

However, should anyone actually come up with the money – he has never publicly named his price, but it is widely accepted to be in the region of £300million – he is still keen to sell having freely admitted the Premier League is too rich for his pocket.

The uncertainty over the club’s ownership and future investment has left manager Rafael Benitez in limbo as he considers his own continued presence on Tyneside.

Benitez’s contract is due to expire at the end of the season and while the 58-year-old Spaniard wants to stay and the club wants to keep him, he has so far resisted their overtures as he awaits assurances on the backing he would want to take Newcastle to the next level.

Ashley’s decision to sanction a club record £21million January swoop for Miguel Almiron may have eased the situation, but supporters remain anxious as they wait for a manager whose efforts over the last three years have been warmly appreciated to sit down with the hierarchy and thrash out the way forward.

– Meanwhile, Mohamed Diame has told Newcastle the ball is in their court as he looks for a contract extension.

The 31-year-old midfielder will secure an automatic 12-month deal if he starts three more Premier League games this season under the terms of his existing contract.

However, the French-born former Senegal international is looking for two years and could leave St James’ Park on a free transfer this summer if that clause is not triggered.

Diame said: “It will not be a problem because the club know my position. I am focused on what this club needs to stay up, as that is the most important thing.

“They know I want to stay. But it’s not about me, it is about the club and what they want to do. I am focused on the job of staying up and there will be time in the summer to think about this.

“I am happy here, that’s what I can say. If I can stay I will stay, but if I have to go, I will go. It won’t be a problem.”

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