Matt Ritchie today completed his move to Newcastle United from AFC Bournemouth for £12m, a fee that puts him in the top 5 most expensive players in the clubs history and only just shy of the £15m we paid for Shearer back in 1996.
Of all the signings made to date Ritchie comes with a real pedigree of delivering in the Championship. You only need to look at his stats from season 14/15 to see just how effective he was in Bournemouth’s successful promotion push. And we certainly think that it is both this, and his potential to become a future established Premier League level player that will have attracted Benitez to his signature.
Rafa knows only too well that experience will be as important as talent in our fight for promotion next season. Ritchie has both.
The English born Scottish International has recently become a fixture in his National first team, scoring 3 times in his 10 appearances including the winner in a 1-0 victory over Denmark back in March.
The fact that Eddie Howe has allowed Ritchie to leave will come as a somewhat of a shock and disappointment to most Bournemouth fans who see him as a real favourite at the Vitality Stadium.
Ritchie can play on both flanks but predominantly is utilised on the right wing. Whether Ritchie has been brought in as a replacement for Townsend therefore will be the immediate concern, and whilst Andros is rumoured to have just bought a property in the North East this would certainly seem like a move to replace the England winger who is widely thought to have a relegation buyout clause in his contract meaning Rafa is almost powerless to stop him leaving, certainly if the player himself want to go.
For Ritchie though the move to Newcastle will feel like a big step up. Just three short seasons ago he was playing for Swindon in League 1, and whilst his rise in fame and fortune has coincided with that of Bournemouth, moving from the 11,464 capacity Vitality Stadium to St James Park, the club, the manager and the fans will be a big step up for the lad.
His first season in England’s elite division last season can probably be described as ‘steady’. 4 goals and 6 assists from his 42 games may not seem like a huge return but in a side that continues to punch well above its weight (and let’s face it, his and his team did what we could not last season) that is not a bad return at all.
But, as we said earlier, it is the contribution of 33 goals and assists in his last full season in the Championship that makes his an excellent addition. And under Rafa’s guidance and with the right blend of players around him, another such return would do very nicely thank you and would go a long way to getting Newcastle United back to where they belong.