Opinion: Florian Lejeune to Newcastle United edges closer and what it means for current squad

Newcastle United are set to sign defender Florian Lejeune ahead of their return to pre-season next week, according to reports.

The Frenchman has been strongly linked with a move to St James' Park for several weeks but any potential deal has hinged on Lejeune's £8.7million release clause.

Rather than activating Lejeune release clause, Managing Director Lee Charnley has attempted to negotiate a smaller fee with the La Liga club. However, Eibar have stood firm with United, who are now set to pay the full release clause.

Eibar Sporting Director Fran Garagarza confirmed on Tuesday that Newcastle are in a strong position to sign the 26-year-old, who has already agreed a four-year deal with the club.

Manager Rafael Benitez will hope Charnley can conclude this deal within the coming days so the player can complete his medical and join up with his new team-mates early next week.

What Garagarza said

With any talk of a deal quieting down over the weekend, Eibar's Sporting Director spoke out on Tuesday confirming Newcastle were pursuing the Frenchman.

But while Garagarza may have seemed as words of encouragement, it highlighted Eibar's resistance. He said: "Right now all the roads point to their march [Newcastle].

"The English are showing their interest and we fear that he will not continue with us."

What does a deal mean for others?

Lejeune will likely be required to play in central defence but can operate as a defensive midfielder - a similar attribute that Isaac Hayden holds.

With Grant Hanley set for a move away, Lejeune will challenge Jamaal Lascelles, Chancel Mbemba and Ciaran Clark. However, Lascelles and Mbemba are perhaps more vulnerable to losing their place in United's starting 11.

Clark was considered one of Newcastle's best performers last season which might give his an advantage in fighting for his spot, though with Benitez that is not guaranteed.

While Newcastle's club captain played for the pain barriers to help the Magpies over the promotion line, he received some criticism from some sections of the St James' Park crowd.

Lascelles dip in form might have brought some questions from Benitez. And As supporters saw from last year, Benitez was not frightened to drop players.

One of those players who arguably suffered most from Benitez' ruthlessness was Mbemba. After the DR Congo International scored an own goal in the 2-0 home league defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers in September, the 22-year-old did not feature in the Championship until April 5 when he was recalled to starting 11 against Burton Albion.

Mbemba went on to play the six of the Magpies remaining seven games to cap a season total of 11 league appearances. Mbemba is a popular figure among the Geordie faithful but is yet to win the trust of Benitez.

Lejeune's arrival will add strong competition among the Newcastle defence. The defender used to be on the books at Manchester City but never made an appearance. He has no Premier League experience which might suggest his arrival might act a ploy Newcastle's current defenders to buck up their ideas.