Matt Ritchie has opened up on his Newcastle United future – after being linked with a move away from the club.
The winger has again been linked with Stoke City ahead of the summer transfer window.
Ritchie – who helped Newcastle finish the season 13th in the Premier League table – was first linked with the Championship club a year ago.
However, the 29-year-old, signed from Bournemouth three years ago and under contract at St James’s Park until 2021, has had discussions about a new deal at St James’s Park.
Speaking to the Gazette, Ritchie said: “There are discussions at the moment – hopefully, we can get them resolved.
“This is a massive football club – I’m really enjoying playing for it – so until I’m told my services are no longer required, I’m fighting for my life ,as I do every week to perform.
“Who knows what the future holds, but until I’m told my services are no longer required, I’ll do everything for the football club.”
Asked if he wanted a new contract at United, Ritchie said: “Yeah, of course.”
Benitez, himself out of contract in the summer, denied a story last month which claimed that Ritchie had been told he wouldn’t get a new deal because of his age.
“I’m not happy – it’s not true,” said United’s manager.
“My job is to prepare Ritchie for the next game. I cannot give any advice about the future – my contract is up on June 30.
“If I do not have a contract after next month, how can I say to him ‘I will not give you a contract’? “It’s a decision for the club.”
Ritchie was fielded out of position at wing-back for much of the campaign after Rafa Benitez switched to a back five.
And the Gosport-born player impressed in the position as the club pulled away from relegation zone in the second half of the season.
Ritchie started all but three of the club’s league games and scored three goals, including the winner against Manchester City at St James’s Park in January.
Asked if he had been his best season at the club, Ritchie said: “I don’t know about that.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been very pleased with the way I’ve adapted to the new regime.
“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it, and learnt a lot, but you can’t say it is my best season.”
Ritchie scored 16 goals for United in the Championship two seasons ago.
“The Championship was a different season – we were expected to win,” said Ritchie.
“I’ve been pleased with all three seasons. There’s always room for improvement, and I want to strive for more and improve in areas of my game. I still want more.”
Ritchie spoke about his new defensive role last month.
“I’m really enjoying it,” said Ritchie, who set up two of Newcastle’s goals in Sunday’s season-ending 4-0 win over relegated Fulham at Craven Cottage.
“We’ve spent quite a lot of time playing with a front three, with Ronny (Salomon Rondon), Miguel (Almiron) and Ayo (Perez), and if you’re playing as a wide player in that formation, you have to be a real threat in behind.
“My strength isn’t really running behind. But with the team we have now in the Premier League, we’re a bit more counter-attacking.
“I enjoy playing wing-back – I get a lot more of the ball than I did higher up the pitch.”
Ritchie has made 125 career appearances in all competitions – and scored 22 goals – for Newcastle.