Very few people expected Bournemouth to be safe from relegation by early April at the start of the season. The Cherries were favourites to make an immediate return to the Championship with the bookies, but now sit 13th, 11 points clear of the relegation zone, approaching the magical 40 points mark. Matt Ritchie has been a key part of Bournemouth’s success, and they must keep hold of the Scottish international this summer.
Ritchie played an important role in the Bournemouth team that made it to the top flight of English football for the first time in their history last season. In April 2015, he was voted the best player in the Football League by FourFourTwo readers, having won the award for best player in League One during the 2012/13 season.
Despite promotion to the Premier League, Eddie Howe kept together the same side that got them out of the Championship, a decision heavily influenced by injuries. Bournemouth spent a lot of money on the likes of Max Gradel, only for the winger to pick up a serious injury in August that saw him only return to first-team action in recent weeks.
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Whereas many players have struggled to make the leap from Championship football to the Premier League, Ritchie has gone from strength to strength. He has scored three goals this season, including a goal of the season contender against Sunderland, and provided six assists on the south coast.
He also perfectly fits the way Howe wants his sided to play at Bournemouth. He is an impressive talent, yet is still one of the hardest working players in the division, completing 150 miles of running in the Premier League after only teammate Andrew Surman and Everton’s Gareth Barry.
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Recently, reports have linked the Scotsman with a move to the likes of Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United, but he is a man who the Cherries can’t afford to lose. He is one of the most technically gifted players in the Bournemouth squad, and they will struggle to find someone as good, who also is willing to put in the running that Ritchie does to replace him.
You also have to ask the question how Ritchie would benefit from a transfer. He would be among a much stronger squad of players, meaning he would get nowhere near the quantity of football he does at Bournemouth and his only real benefit would be the increased salary.
Despite this, Ritchie may find it tough to reject one of the Premier League’s bigger sides. Bournemouth, on the other hand, may struggle to survive in the top flight next season if they allow one of their key players to leave.