​In the bid to strengthen his defensive ranks for the second half of the current Premier League campaign, Newcastle United boss Rafa Benitez - according to a report published by Portuguese outlet Ojogo - is ready to swoop Argentinian centre-back Lisandro Lopez away from SL Benfica in January.

The Magpies were originally linked to the 28-year-old in the summer alongside his club teammate and Greek international midfielder Andreas Samaris, however it's emerged that the North East outfit are supposedly the front-runners in the race for the defender's signature at the turn of the New Year.


Lopez originally penned a 5-year deal at his current employers back in 2013 which included a €35M buy-out clause, although his contract has since been extended, meaning that he will be at the club until 2021.

But, despite his lengthy contract renewal, the 6ft 2in centre-half has failed to make a mark recently at the Estadio da Luz, with Benitez allegedly being eager to offer him a fresh lifeline on English shores.

It's said that the Liga NOS giants wanted £10m for Lopez in the summer window, so if he is to depart them in the winter, Newcastle could perhaps even knock down their original valuation.

It's also believed that the 'Toon's' Spanish boss is hungry to incorporate a sense of competition within his squad, with the second half of the domestic campaign being pivotal to a club's bid for survival.

Lopez has been capped four times by his national set-up, fundamentally meaning that he's got a top natural calibre and class in his game, so do not be fooled by his current lack of game-time at the 'Águias'.