Rafa Benitez has a decision to make on midfielder at Newcastle amid interest from three clubs

Matt Ritchie (Pic: Stephen Dobson)
Matt Ritchie (Pic: Stephen Dobson)

Newcastle United’s Matt Ritchie is a summer target for three clubs.

The winger is wanted by Bournemouth, Middlesbrough and Stoke City.

And Rafa Benitez could have a decision to make if one or more of them make a firm bid for the 28-year-old, who has been an influential figure on and off the pitch over the past two seasons.

Stoke manager Gary Rowett has responded to speculation linking the relegated club with Ritchie, who scored the goal which secured Newcastle’s Premier League status last season.

“We’ve got a very varied target list out there, and I’ve always said the same. When you’re linked with players, they’re not always true – but often some of them are,” said Rowett.

“We want the level of player we’re being linked with. That’s the type and the level of player we’re trying to bring into the club.

“A lot of those players will be different styles, they won’t all be the type of player. But there are players we think can come in and make a difference.”

Manager Benitez wants to re-sign Kenedy – who spent the second half of last season on loan at St James’s Park – this summer.

However, it is unclear whether he would be prepared to sell Ritchie in the summer window, such has been his influence on the team over the past two seasons

Meanwhile, Real Sociedad are confident of completing the signing of Mikel Merino in the coming days.

The Newcastle midfielder has already agreed a five-year deal with the La Liga club, according to reports in Spain, and Sociedad are ready to activate Merino’s release clause.

Merino, signed from Borussia Dortmund last year, became frustrated with a lack of first-team football in the second half of last season.

Sociedad coach Asier Garitano has confirmed the club’s interest in Merino, who is on holiday in Spain and due back on Tyneside next month.

“I think it still has not been finalised,” Garitano. “He’s someone I’ve know for many years.

“It could be a good signing for us. He has been at important clubs like Borussia Dortmund and Newcastle. He has a great future ahead of him.”