Newcastle boss Alan Pardew's hopes of securing his key players before embarking on a recruitment drive have suffered a further blow.
Pardew had hoped to tie up the futures of skipper Kevin Nolan, fellow midfielder Joey Barton and left-back Jose Enrique this summer ahead of a foray into the transfer market.
However, 28-year-old Nolan is understood to have rejected the contract offer currently on the table just weeks after Barton was told he will not be offered a new deal.
Former Bolton player Nolan, who scored 12 Barclays Premier League goals last season, has two years remaining on his current contract, but the breakdown of talks will cause further concern amongst fans still coming to terms with Barton's situation.
Like Nolan, Barton was one of the club's most consistent performers last season as he enjoyed his best campaign to date in a Newcastle shirt, and his retention beyond the final year of his current deal was one of Pardew's priorities.
But agent Willie McKay has revealed that the offer on which the two parties failed to agree in January is no longer on the table, and that unless something changes radically in the next 12 months, Barton will leave St James' Park on a free transfer next summer.
With Spanish full-back Enrique looking the least likely of the trio to remain on Tyneside amid repeated speculation that Liverpool are ready to tempt him away, the first few weeks of Pardew's summer have unfolded in far from encouraging fashion.
The club finished in a creditable 12th place in their first season back in the top flight, and the manager has had his scouting team cast far and wide in the search for reinforcements.
At least one striker and a wide midfielder are at the top of Pardew's list with Lorient's Kevin Gameiro, Lille's Gervinho, Reading's Shane Long and former Magpie Charles N'Zogbia, currently at Wigan, among his targets.
However, his shopping list could yet increase in length if the club decides to cash in on the men they are struggling to retain.
In addition, injury-plagued midfielder Alan Smith has been told he can leave the club as he enters the final year of his contract.
Smith was signed for £6million from Manchester United by then manager Sam Allardyce during the summer of 2007, and although he was a key figure as the Magpies fought their way back into the Premier League, his chances last season were severely limited by a nasty ankle injury.
In addition, he is among the biggest earners at St James' and with owner Mike Ashley seeking to control expenditure on wages, his departure has become almost inevitable.Reuse content