Rafa Benitez reveals his view on Newcastle United's Matt Ritchie ahead of his Bournemouth reunion
Rafa Benitez has labelled Matt Ritchie as one of his "most important" signings ahead of the winger's return to Bournemouth.
Benitez signed Ritchie from this afternoon's opponents in the summer of 2016 for £12million.
Ritchie went on to help the club win the Championship title and was a key figure last season as United secured a 10th-placed finish in the Premier League.
The 29-year-old has also been an influential figure in the dressing room during Benitez's time at St James's Park.
Benitez, however, had considered selling Ritchie to Stoke City last summer to fund a move for Andros Townsend.
“He is definitely one of the most important signings," said Benitez. "In terms of importance, value and what he has been giving to the team, he has been an important player for us, for sure."
Jordan Pickford saved a penalty from Ritchie in last weekend's 3-2 win over Everton.
And Benitez could yet put Salomon Rondon or Miguel Almiron on penalties, though United's manager "trusts" Ritchie with set-pieces.
“We have to decide about that," said Benitez. "What I can guarantee you is that we have been practising taking penalties, free-kicks and corners.
"We were practising before, and I saw bottom corner, bottom corner. He was doing really well. During the game, he decided to change and do something different, but he's someone you can trust."