International manager Alex McLeish has revealed (see below) that Matt Ritchie has told him he doesn’t want to be considered for the Scotland squad in the ‘foreseeable’ future.
The Scotland boss announcing his squad for the Nations League games against Albania and Israel, being quizzed by media as to why a winger playing regularly in the Premier League couldn’t make the national squad.
Alex McLeish explaining ‘Matt Ritchie wanted to be left out for the foreseeable future. It’s private. It’s not something for me to discuss.’
The international manager continuing: ‘I wanted Matt to come in but he has asked to be left out at the moment. He has not retired or anything. You don’t know everyone’s private life so you have to respect that. I think if you spoke to the people concerned you would be accommodating as well.’
I can’t help but feel this is linked to the media reports three months ago, when Newcastle fans were stunned to learn that Matt Ritchie allegedly wanted to leave.
The story was broken by The Telegraph that Stoke were prepared to pay £15m for the winger who has an astonishing goals and assists record in the Championship for Newcastle and Bournemouth, an ideal player to help them try to bounce back to the top tier at the first time of asking.
At the time it was said it was family reasons as to why Ritchie wanted to leave, wanting to move south to be ‘closer to family’.
However, The Chronicle then reported on 5 July that Rafa Benitez had knocked back a £15m offer from Stoke and wouldn’t be selling ‘unless he is handed a quality replacement.’
Considering the way the summer transfer window was turning out, little wonder the manager wouldn’t agree to the sale.
On the face of it, £15m for a winger who turned 29 in September and who had played the vast majority of his career outside the Premier League, looked good money.
The reality of course is that Rafa Benitez was already realising how ridiculous this transfer window would be, the club selling Mikel Merino for £10m and the manager only allowed 29 year old free transfer Ki Sung-yeung, whilst Aleksandar Mitrovic was sold for £22m (rising to £27m) but the manager blocked from spending anything like that, only £2m for loan striker Salomon Rondon.
Rafa knowing that Newcastle accepting a bid of £15m for Matt Ritchie would simply have meant him handed a few million for a bargain buy replacement or loan, rather than £15m+ to buy a proper signing that would have improved the first team.
At the time it was claimed that Rafa was prepared to sell Matt Ritchie if he got Andros Townsend as a replacement but no chance of Mike Ashley allowing that kind of money to be spent, regardless of selling players such as Mitrovic for big money.
In the here and now though, in Newcastle’s position every player who isn’t put at risk of injury on international duty and the strain of extra games, has to be seen as a bonus.
The Chronicle – 5 July 2018:
‘The Magpies aren’t keen on selling Matt Ritchie on the cheap despite a huge wage offer for the winger from Stoke.
An offer of £15million has been deemed as unacceptable by the Magpies and Rafa Benitez does not want to sell the Scotland international unless he is handed a quality replacement.”
“We have factored in everything that could happen and we know what we have to do.
“I feel we have the players who can do it.
“I have trust in them.
“Matt Ritchie wanted to be left out for the foreseeable future.
“It’s private. It’s not something for me to discuss.
“He had injury issues as well and, again, there is management of his injuries.
“I wanted Matt to come in but he has asked to be left out at the moment.
“He has not retired or anything.
“You don’t know everyone’s private life so you have to respect that.
“I think if you spoke to the people concerned you would be accommodating as well.”