The financial problems facing Newcastle United could make Premier League rivals Aston Villa favourites to land Watford midfielder Will Hughes this summer, according to the Watford Observer.
A fortnight ago, when reports emerged suggesting a star player could be heading out of Vicarage Road on the eve of the new season, Watford supporters reacted with understandable concern.
Hughes had played a major role as the Hornets secured promotion under Xisco Munoz last term. The tempo-setting, string-pulling midfield maestro enjoyed some of the best form of his career in yellow and black.
The former Derby County favourite even admitted as recently as May he wanted to stay at Watford and help the club cement its position back in the big time.
So what on earth has gone wrong?
Two months on, it looks increasingly likely Hughes will be playing for a different club come September, with the 26-year-old seemingly reluctant to extend a contract that expires in 12 months.
Is Will Hughes leaving Watford for Aston Villa or Newcastle?
The Observer reports Hughes and his representatives are unconvinced by the new five-year deal put forward by Watford and the midfielder is now considering life away from Hertfordshire.
Aston Villa and Newcastle have both shown an interest.
And Villa are understood to be the most likely destination at this stage, with ongoing takeover concerns hampering Newcastle’s ability to spend big this summer.
The Magpies have yet to buy a single player during the current transfer window.
Then again, Newcastle do appear to have an ace up their sleeve. Reports have suggested the club may be willing to offer Isaac Hayden as a makeweight in a deal that would see Hughes, who joined Watford for £8 million in 2017, go in the other direction.
What’s more, the Hornets appear to be closing in on Sampdoria’s Morten Thorsby, a potential £5 million replacement for Hughes at Vicarage Road (TMW).