The Telegraph are reporting that Stoke City and Middlesbrough are competing to sign Newcastle United midfielder Matt Ritchie as both clubs continue to enhance their squads ahead of the new season.
The Scotland international only arrived at St James Park two years ago in a £12 million switch from Bournemouth and was a central figure as The Magpies secured promotion from the Championship.
He continued to be a key part of Rafael Benitez’s team last season and made a total of 35 appearances in the Premier League, scoring three goals.
However, the Telegraph suggest that Benitez is open-minded about Ritchie’s future and could be tempted to cash in on the winger as he looks generate transfer funds to strengthen his own squad.
The Spaniard is preparing for a second campaign in the top-flight but Newcastle owner Mike Ashley is looking to sell the club and has been notoriously tight-fisted over the previous twelve months when it comes to investing in the transfer market.
Both Stoke and Middlesbrough are looking to push for promotion this season and have already signalled their intentions by making a number of high-profile signings early in the summer.
Tony Pulis has prepared for his first full season at the Riverside by investing in Aden Flint and Paddy McNair whilst Gary Rowett has secured the arrivals of Benik Afobe and Nigeria’s World Cup star Oghenekaro Etebo.
Both managers will be under pressure to hit the ground running this campaign and neither have wasted any time in making new additions to their squads.
It is believed that a fee of £15 million could tempt Newcastle to sell Ritchie although it is unclear whether the 28-year-old would be willing to drop into the Championship.
The perfect solution to Stoke’s creative woes?
Stoke City have certainly signalled their intention this season by making a number of high profile moves in the transfer market and, if newspaper reports are to be believed, still intend to sign a number of big-name players before the season begins.
Benik Afobe and Oghenekaro Etebo have already arrived whilst Gary Rowett has also made a major coup by convincing Welsh midfielder Joe Allen to sign a new contract with the club.
Furthermore, The Potters have also been linked with the likes of Dwight Gayle, Andre Gray and James McClean, suggesting that the club hierarchy have little intention of a hanging around in the second tier for too long.
Matt Ritchie would certainly be another major signing for Stoke and he certainly fits the bill as Rowett continues to remould his squad.
Stoke’s relegation last season was underpinned by a lack of creativity in the final third and the 28-year-old will certainly help to solve that issue.
Ritchie is renowned for the quality of his distribution from wide areas and he would be the perfect figure to provide deliveries into the box for the prolific Afobe.
The Potters are also short of out-and-out wingers at the moment.
Ramadan Sobhi has already been sold to Huddersfield Town whilst Xherdan Shaqiri has already confirmed that he intends to leave the club before the start of the new season, leaving Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting as the only senior wide player on the books.
Ritchie’s quality and experienced would be a major boost for Stoke’s promotion push and, although the asking price may be somewhat inflated, there is little doubting that he would be the perfect addition.
However, Rowett will need to deliver one hell of a sales pitch if he is to convince the Scotland international to depart St James Park this summer and drop in the second tier.
Whilst The Potters would be more than capable of matching Ritchie’s wage demands it is unclear whether he would relish the prospect of leaving the glitz, glamour and prestige of the Premier League behind.