Fulham have emerged as the clear frontrunners to sign Darren Bent after Newcastle United's bid to recruit the 29-year-old striker faltered. Newcastle have been monitoring Bent's position for some time, with Alan Pardew keen to bring in the former England international to bolster his forward line, although the chances of that happening appear increasingly slim on the back of preliminary talks that revealed there is a considerable financial shortfall to bridge.
It is understood that the package Newcastle are proposing would fall well short of Villa's expectations, as well as those of a player who has scored more than 100 Premier League goals and averaged one every other game in the top flight across the past eight seasons.
Villa are holding out for £6m for Bent, who has two years remaining on his contract and cost them a club-record £18m rising to £24m when they signed him from Sunderland in January 2011.
Newcastle, however, were hoping to sign Bent for less than the £4m bid that Fulham have already had rejected in one of two offers submitted by the west London club.
With Bent's personal terms also a major stumbling block for Newcastle, the north-east club will have to come up with a vastly-improved offer if they are to re-enter the race for the centre-forward, who is also attracting strong interest from Crystal Palace.
The latest development will increase the pressure on Joe Kinnear, Newcastle's director of football, who has yet to make a signing since his controversial appointment earlier this summer. Newcastle have failed with a bid worth almost £7m for Lyon's Bafétimbi Gomis, who has only 12 months remaining on his contract, while they are continuing to explore the possibility of taking Loïc Rémy on loan from Queens Park Rangers after the London club's relegation to the Championship. Bent, though, was known to be one of Pardew's prime targets.
It is expected that Fulham will now return with a third bid for Bent, who was marginalised at Villa following Paul Lambert's appointment last summer and has spent this pre-season training away from the first-team squad.
Martin Jol, the Fulham manager, has long admired Bent's attributes, having briefly worked with him during his time in charge of Tottenham Hotspur.