Eddie Howe desperately wants to keep Matt Ritchie at Newcastle United - but has cast doubt over his future.
The 33-year-old is out-of-contract next month and as it stands has played his last match for the Magpies after being ruled out of Sunday’s Premier League finale at Chelsea with a knee injury.
Ritchie made 10 appearances this campaign, only two of which were starts. Despite his lack of game time, Howe has spoken highly about the winger’s leadership behind the scenes.
Howe has known Ritchie for almost a decade after signing him for Bournemouth. The 45-year-old wants their working relationship to continue but admits he could depart to move closer to his family on the South Coast.
“I’ve held various discussions with Matt throughout the season and I think, first and foremost, he’s been very committed to Newcastle and to the team and aims this season,” Howe told NewcastleWorld. “I have said I desperately want to keep him next year.
“He has had issues surrounding his family and the distance between him and them, it’s never easy when you have young children and that distance when you’re a parent is tough at times. But Matt has been exceptional and I certainly hope he stays for next season.”
Ritchie moved to St James’ Park from Bournemouth in 2016 for £12million and in his first season played a leading role as United sealed an immediate return to the Premier League.
Asked about Ritchie’s future earlier this month, Howe added: “I think Matty still has a very strong desire to play. I see that with how he trains
“His personality around the place is very positive, he’s high energy. He’s got a lot of energy to give. He’s controlled himself, and managed that energy, brilliantly this year.
“He has trained harder than any other player, because his expression of that energy comes through his training, because he’s not played regularly for us. I’ve said many times he’s very important behind the scenes.
“He’s a really good role model for younger players to look at in terms of how to conduct yourself, how to act. He’s used his leadership really effectively for us this year.
“I would love him to continue his journey with Newcastle next year, but (there) will be conversations to take place before that happens.”
In total, Ritchie has made 198 appearances for Newcastle.
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