Newcastle speed up Dan Ashworth exit to Man Utd as Paul Mitchell heads list of targets

Newcastle United's Sporting Director Dan Ashworth
Dan Ashworth's gardening leave terms would not allow him to start at Old Trafford until the end of 2025 - Getty Images/Serena Taylor

Newcastle want to speed up Dan Ashworth’s exit as Paul Mitchell heads a shortlist of candidates to replace the Manchester United-bound sporting director.

The compensation talks over Ashworth remain a priority and Telegraph Sport understands Newcastle chief executive Darren Eales has taken a lead role in those negotiations, which are believed to have been amicable, despite the bad feeling created by his exit after he denied for months that he was set to leave for Old Trafford.

Former Southampton and Tottenham head of recruitment Mitchell, whose last job was sporting director at Monaco, features prominently in discussions over a new figurehead at St James’ Park. The shortlist is also thought to include Brentford’s Director of Football Phil Giles, a boyhood Newcastle fan, West Ham’s Tim Steidten and former Roma sporting director Tiago Pinto, who has publicly expressed his interest in the job.

Newcastle have asked recruitment firm Odgers Berndtson to act as an intermediary and have started reaching out to potential candidates. Mitchell is thought to be keen on a return to England and would not have the same lengthy period of gardening leave as they would be employing someone from a Premier League rival.

Although Newcastle’s current head of recruitment, Steve Nickson, has been pushing himself forward internally to take on a wider role in the aftermath of Ashworth’s absence, the club are keen for him to focus on scouting players. Nickson currently shares control of the scouting department and player analysis with Andy Howe, nephew of manager Eddie.

Paul MITCHELL sporting director of Monaco during the press conference of AS Monaco on July 6, 2020 in Monaco, Monaco
Paul Mitchell held posts at Tottenham and Southampton before his current role at Monaco - Getty Images/Pascal Della Zuana

Newcastle remain adamant they want a large compensation fee for Ashworth after losing one of their key appointments since the Saudi Arabian-led takeover, but are willing to negotiate after Telegraph Sport revealed they were initially asking for as much as £20m to reduce the length of his gardening leave.

Although the Newcastle hierarchy are extremely reluctant to let Ashworth – whose gardening leave is due to run until the end of 2025 – start work before the summer, they would consider a deal that will see him begin his new role at Old Trafford before the end of the year if Manchester United pay suitable compensation. The talks are set to continue with Eales determined to get the best deal possible for his club.

In turn, having initially thought they would wait until later this year to appoint Ashworth’s replacement, there is now a desire to find someone who can come in to start work as soon as possible.

The loss of Ashworth has left a power vacuum at the top of the club and the board - although capable of handling the forthcoming transfer window in the same way they did before Ashworth arrived in May 2022 - recognise it would be better to fill it sooner rather than later with a pivotal summer ahead.

Newcastle are still trying to agree a new contract with Brazilian midfielder Joelinton and some progress has been made with both sides expressing a desire to agree terms. But there will be a deadline imposed with Newcastle stressing they need an answer soon.

Joelinton will have to agree to an extension - potentially with a release clause similar to the one inserted into his compatriot Bruno Guimaraes’s new deal last year - before June or he will be made available for transfer.

Joelinton has 15 months left on the deal he signed when he joined from Hoffenheim in the summer of 2019.