Rafa Benitez makes Stoke's Ryan Shawcross top transfer target should he guide Newcastle to promotion

Benitez wants an overhaul of the Newcastle squad with at least six new faces to help them cope with life back in the Premier League

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The Independent Football

Rafael Benitez has targeted Stoke City captain Ryan Shawcross as his top priority if Newcastle United are promoted this summer.

Benitez wants an overhaul of the Newcastle squad with at least six new faces to help them cope with life back in the Premier League. He especially wants a strong reliable centre-back to build around and has identified Shawcross as the perfect man.

Ciaran Clark and Jamaal Lascelles have predominantly been playing at centre-back for Newcastle this season but Benitez wants more Premier League experience next season.

Shawcross is still a regular in Mark Hughes’ side, and only Erik Pieters has made more appearances for Stoke than him this season. But Stoke have allowed Shawcross’ contract to run down and after this year he only has one more year on his deal there.

With no new deal even offered to Shawcross yet, this has given Benitez encouragement that he could tempt him to St James’ Park.

Shawcross will have been at the Britannia Stadium for 10 years this summer, after Tony Pulis signed the 19-year-old from Manchester United on loan in 2007 and has made 374 appearances for the club.

Benitez is on the brink of taking Newcastle back into the Premier League at the first attempt after their relegation last year. They are currently second in the Championship and need a maximum of nine points from their last five games to confirm promotion. They host Leeds United on Friday night and then travel to Ipswich Town on Easter Monday.

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