Aston Villa plan to step up their attempts to sign Newcastle United duo Craig Bellamy and Aaron Hughes by initiatingtalks with the players' representatives this weekend.
Villa chairman Doug Ellis is adamant that a cash fee - believed to be about £6 million - for the pair has been agreed despite Newcastle's protestations to the contrary.
As both players are clearly surplus to requirements at St James' Park, Villa are hopeful that manager David O'Leary can persuade the pair to move to the Midlands.
Signing 25-year-old Northern Ireland international Hughes, a versatile defender with more than 250 appearances for Newcastle, should be straightforward.
But Villa's pursuit of Bellamy is likely to be considerably more complex, as Birmingham City found out to their embarrassment in January.
Blues' chairman David Gold announced that the club had agreed a £6 million deal for the 25-year-old Welsh international striker following his acrimonious fall-out with Newcastle manager Graeme Souness.
However, Bellamy opted to join Celtic on loan until the end of the season and the striker is believed to favour a move to a bigger club than Villa if he returns south to the Premiership.
Celtic still hope to sign Bellamy permanently after their Scottish Cup final against Dundee on May 28 but they may not be able to afford the transfer fee for the ex-Coventry City striker or his wages which are believed to be about £45,000 a week.
With Villa willing to break their wage structure for Bellamy, they appear to be in the driving seat for his signature - although Blackburn Rovers and Blues are also interested.
Consequently, Villa have attempted to head off competition for Bellamy by negotiating with Newcastle and Bellamy's agent Steve Horner only days after the end of the Premiership campaign.
If Villa succeed in signing Bellamy it would represent a considerable coup for Villa and David O'Leary, the manager, who intends to strengthen his squad with several signings this summer.
Czech international midfielder Patrik Berger has joined on a two-year contract and Villa are eyeing Chelsea's Robert Huth and Scott Parker as well as Southampton striker Kevin Phillips.
Ellis said: "From Monday of this week I have been working round the clock, talking to chairmen of the clubs of which the manager has chosen certain players.
"I am keeping the manager informed but these things are not done overnight - they never were. We are working on players and I am confident we can get some of them."