Unai Emery has confirmed Newcastle United's interest in him becoming their new manager but says no official offer has been made yet.
The Spaniard is the leading candidate to succeed Steve Bruce at St James' Park and talks have taken place between Emery and the club's hierarchy over the past 48 hours, with more negotiations scheduled for Wednesday as Newcastle close in on their No 1 target.
The former Arsenal head coach is currently managing Villarreal, and it is thought that while he is happy at the Spanish club - where he has a €6m (£5.1m) release clause in his contract - he is open to hearing what Newcastle have to say.
- Newcastle's upcoming fixtures | Premier League table
- Reece James double vs Newcastle fires Chelsea further ahead at top
- Kieron Dyer to undergo liver transplant
Speaking after leading his Villarreal side to a 2-0 win over Young Boys in the Champions League on Tuesday evening, Emery said: "There has been an interest from Newcastle, that is all.
"No offer yet, which will have to be to me and to the club. There is nothing else. Before saying yes or not, I will talk to the club."
However, earlier on Tuesday Villarreal president Fernando Roig refuted any such links, saying: "I'm sure that his mind is not drifting elsewhere.
"I know Unai has a contract with us and contracts are there to be fulfilled. We hope that we will be able to see that contract through until the end."
Newcastle want to have a manager in place by the weekend, ahead of their game away at Brighton and there is a feeling Emery has unfinished business in the Premier League since he was sacked by Arsenal in 2019.
Emery was appointed Villarreal manager in July 2020 and led them to the Europa League title last season, beating Manchester United on penalties in the final.
A source close to former Roma boss Paulo Fonseca has told Sky Sports News that, as it stands, it is unlikely the Portuguese will be appointed as Steve Bruce's successor.
Lucien Favre, Eddie Howe and Roberto Martinez are other candidates that Newcastle remain interested in.
Bruce was relieved of his duties 13 days after the Saudi Arabia-backed £305m takeover of Newcastle last month following a poor run of form at the start of the season which culminated in a 3-2 defeat by Tottenham.
Graeme Jones has assumed caretaker charge and oversaw Saturday's 3-0 defeat to league leaders Chelsea.
The Magpies remain winless in the Premier League after drawing four games and losing six of their 10 matches so far this term.
'Newcastle want someone in quickly'
Sky Sports News reporter Keith Downie...
"The favourite to take over from Steve Bruce, who was sacked two weeks ago, is Unai Emery.
"Things have moved on significantly since the weekend - that 3-0 defeat to Chelsea has made the owners realise they need to get someone in soon.
"Emery is currently under contract at Villarreal and it will take £6m worth of compensation to get him out of his current deal.
"Emery turns 50 on Wednesday so Newcastle will probably try and get some work done on his birthday and try and get him in before the weekend.
"There are others that Newcastle are still interested in should they not manage to land Emery, Roberto Martinez and Lucien Favre being two of them, but Emery is under serious consideration by the owners."
Analysis: How would Emery set up at Newcastle?
Spanish football expert Alvaro Montero on Sky Sports News:
"Unai Emery was asked yesterday about this situation, about Newcastle's offer to sign him for this weekend. Villarreal have to play tonight [in the Champions League against Young Boys on Tuesday] and the truth is that inside the club, they don't deny that there is the possibility of Emery to leave.
"Usually the coach never lies, he's one of those people that is straight with the answers to the press and he said yesterday 'The truth is I don't know anything about it', but it sounds strange because once you ask inside the club, they say that it's a possibility.
"We have to remember that Emery has this famous clause of £6m, so as far as I know, if Newcastle decide to pay that amount of money, they will sign Emery and Villarreal will have to find a new coach. They are talking about Diego Martinez, the Granada coach, as being the next coach for this weekend.
"Let's remember that he signed in July 2020 and it's a little strange because it was a good project, but it's the Premier League with this huge project at Newcastle with this amount of money. After his strange experience with Arsenal, maybe he wants to recover himself and prove that he is a good coach. You cannot say no to the Premier League, it seems.
"The Premier League is a good option for him… Maybe he wants to improve with this project that in Spain is seen as a huge one in an economical way. In a football way, it will help him grow and to make the team get better.
"He's one of those coaches that likes to keep the ball, he usually played a 4-3-3, like Zidane did at Real Madrid and right now, Carlo Ancelotti and Pep Guardiola. It's like one of those teams like Luis Enrique and the Spanish national team that likes to control the ball and wants to play in the wings.
"The biggest difference between La Liga right now and the Premier League is the Premier League is much quicker, so he has to make his team more defensive. If he's got these players to play quickly in the wings, he will use this system. I don't think he'll change it because of the way he likes to play, but he's one of those intelligent coaches that can make movements inside the game."