Newcastle United have been given permission to open talks with Manchester City midfielder Joey Barton, while the Magpies are also closing in on a deal for Middlesbrough striker Mark Viduka.
New United boss Sam Allardyce is keen to start strengthening his squad as soon as possible and has moved for Barton with Scott Parker set to leave St James' Park to join West Ham United.
Barton is also wanted by the Irons, but Newcastle have now jumped to the head of the queue for the headline-making England international.
The 24-year-old ended last season under suspension at Eastlands following a training ground clash with team-mate Ousmane Dabo.
Barton has been with City for six years, making more than 150 first-team appearances, while he made his England debut against Spain in February.
Meanwhile, the Magpies are reported to have in principle agreed a deal to sign Boro frontman Viduka.
The 31-year-old Australia international is out of contract at the Riverside and is expected to end his three-year stay with Boro to head to Tyneside.
Viduka scored 19 goals last season, including seven in his last six games for Gareth Southgate's side.
He had previously enjoyed productive spells with Leeds United and Celtic.