Matt Ritchie may be sweating over a new deal at Newcastle, largely thanks to the form of his replacement Jetro Willems, and the persistent injury he is unable to shake off.
The former Bournemouth winger has long been seen as crucial to Newcastle United, and was reportedly set for contract talks, particularly given his influence since moving to wing-back last season, which saw him perform superbly.
But this season has seen something of a twist in the tale, which all stemmed from the lunging shocker of a challenge from Hamza Choudhury of Leicester in August’s EFL Cup tie.
While at Newcastle, Ritchie has never had a sustained period out of the team through injury, which has usually seen him as a certain starter in the lineup.
But the ankle injury he is currently suffering from has sidelined him for three months now, and a second surgery on it has seen him ruled out for a further two.
Had this injury occurred in previous seasons, Newcastle would have had a real problem, due to a lack of quality wing-back replacements.
But fortunately, last summer saw the Magpies bring in Willems, and it has proved to be a masterstroke, with him looking an astute signing, whose displays get better week after week.
Against Manchester City on Saturday, he scored a brilliant goal, and was rightly named man of the match. He has also formed an excellent partnership with Allan Saint-Maximin on the left flank.
With the Dutchman having an option to buy on his loan deal, it seems a foregone conclusion that Newcastle will activate it, and quite where that leaves Ritchie is not known.
Newcastle often prefer not to offer long deals to older players
Given Newcastle’s reluctance to offer multi-year deals to players over 30, and now having the option of Willems, they may well be rethinking the terms of any deal they are hoping to put to the former Scottish international.
There is a chance that a reshuffle of formation in the future could see room for both Willems and Ritchie in the same side, but it would also mean moving Saint-Maximin either onto the right, or in a free advanced role.
If Newcastle see Willems as their first choice for the left wing-back position, and sign him permanently – and it would be hard not to on current form – it will leave them with an interesting dilemma over Ritchie’s future.
Lee Charnley may well offer him a single-year extension to his current deal, and if that is the case, it is likely to see Ritchie leave in the summer.
That scenario was unthinkable prior to the injury he suffered, and whereas many fans would have been outraged at losing Ritchie before, they may now be more accepting of the situation, knowing Willems was on board for the long haul.