Jordon Ibe’s transfer from Liverpool to AFC Bournemouth raised eyebrows among the football community. The £15 million fee smashed the Cherries’ transfer record, eclipsing the amount paid to Wolves for Benik Afobe last January.
With Matt Ritchie having been sold to Newcastle United for £12 million earlier this summer, Bournemouth were in the market for a replacement right winger. Ibe ticked all the boxes for manager Eddie Howe, who had no hesitation in parting with a considerable sum to land his primary target.
At only 20 years of age, Ibe is by no means the finished article, but he is rich in potential. Jamie Redknapp recently wrote in a column for Sky Sports that Ibe is more talented than Raheem Sterling, someone with whom he has often been compared.
In total, Ibe made 41 Premier League appearances for Liverpool and scored his only goal on the final day of last season against West Brom – but what a goal it was. Picking up the ball just inside the opponents’ half, Ibe outstripped his marker and raced towards the box, before cutting inside and unleashing an unstoppable left-foot strike into the corner of the net. It was a snapshot of his natural ability.
Upon assessing Ibe’s attributes, it becomes evident he is a typical Howe signing – young, quite raw, pacey and abundantly talented with huge scope for improvement. Howe has a proven track-record of nurturing potential – Callum Wilson and Joshua King are two such examples – and he will hope to have the same effect on Ibe.
Critics will question the wisdom of spending £15 million on an unproven player, but Bournemouth clearly believe Ibe’s value will only increase. Furthermore, £15 million today is not worth the same as 10 years ago, or even last season, given the recent influx of television money.
Filling the void left by Ritchie is no easy task, however. The Scotland international achieved two promotions in his three years on the south coast and left an indelible mark on the club. In the Cherries’ title-winning Championship campaign, Ritchie was involved in more goals than any other player in the division.
He was technically excellent, with a wand of a left boot and an indefatigable work-rate. His unerring accuracy from free-kicks and crosses, plus an ability to score from long range, always made him a dangerous customer. A lack of pace was his only drawback, which became exposed in the step up to the Premier League. Although Howe tried to persuade Ritchie to stay, the lure of Newcastle and a substantial pay rise were too good to resist.
Like Ritchie, Ibe is ostensibly a right-sided midfielder, but the two could not be more different. Pace; as Howe identified, is a crucial commodity in the Premier League and this is one area where Ibe has a distinct advantage. As his goal against West Brom highlighted, he possesses blistering speed that can leave defenders for dead.
His arrival at Bournemouth could also signal a change in formation. Howe has long played a version of 4-4-2, but with Ibe now in the ranks there are more options open to him, such as a 4-3-3 with Ibe on the right, Max Gradel on the left and Wilson in the centre. When Ritchie was in the side, this was rarely feasible.
Despite the hefty price-tag, Ibe; who has represented England at under-21 level, must be afforded time to settle into his new surroundings. This pre-season will be invaluable as he gels with his team-mates and strikes up a relationship with Howe ahead of the Premier League curtain-raiser against Manchester United on August 14.
A goal in the friendly against Portsmouth will have done wonders to his confidence and could be the springboard for an exciting career at Bournemouth. One thing is for sure, there is no better manager than Howe to facilitate his development.
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