According to two local journalists, Newcastle could sell long-serving duo Matt Ritchie and Ciaran Clark this summer – potentially ending the pair’s five-year stint at St James’ Park.
Starting with Ritchie, the Shields Gazette’s Liam Kennedy insists that the wing-back wanted to leave in January, is unsure if he’ll be a starter under Steve Bruce in 2021/22 and had been priced at £5m following interest from Bournemouth – a move that almost went through earlier this year prior to his bust-up with the NUFC boss.
Kennedy also claims that a free agent move for ex-Mag Jetro Willems is ‘bubbling away’ behind the scenes, suggesting the club could re-sign the 27-year-old – who’s just been released by Frankfurt – should Ritchie finally seal a move down south.
Then to The Chronicle’s Mark Douglas, who says the Irish international is receiving interest from a host of clubs in the Championship and Premier League.
He reports that Bruce wants to bring in another centre-back this summer, meaning the former Aston Villa man could be sold to free up funds – especially when Federico Fernandez and Fabian Schar now look likely to stay via contract clauses triggered by the club.
Here’s snippet from both, starting with what Liam Kennedy had to say on Ritchie:
“Matt Ritchie is the one that I think possibly could go this summer. He has been wanting to go. I think he wants to play regular football, and I don’t think he knows if that’s guaranteed at Newcastle United moving forward.
“If they can probably get rid of Matt Ritchie for £4m or £5m – I know they we’re looking for around £5m from Bournemouth.
“I think that could be the next one, really, to watch – could Jetro Willems come in on a free and Matt Ritchie leave – and I think that’s another one that I’m hearing is kind of bubbling away in and around the background at the moment.”
Mark Douglas on Ciaran Clark:
‘United want a new defender although contract extensions for Federico Fernandez and Fabian Schar are set to be triggered.
‘Ciaran Clark could be made available, with clubs in the Championship and Premier League watching the defender.’
Ritchie has looked revitalised of late and has been an unsung hero in our incredible end to the season that saw us win FIVE of our final eight games and finish 17 clear of Fulham as a result.
That being said, it’s been clear for a while now that he’s angling for a return to his former club, so it seems very possible that we let him go and replace him with fan favourite Jetro Willems – a ‘swap’ that could see Bruce’s budget increase slightly given one is priced at £5m and the Dutchman is available for nothing.
As for Clark, he’s been a solid servant who rarely lets us down, but with us lacking pace and athleticism at the back and already having the likes of Lascelles, Fernandes, Schar, Dummett and Lejeune on our books, it wouldn’t be a huge shock if he made way.
Mind you, I wouldn’t be surprised if he stayed as cover and we sold both Schar and Lejeune instead – two players who’ve often been behind Clark in the pecking order under Bruce.