MATT RITCHIE has been all smiles on the training ground in Ireland – even though Newcastle United are expecting an improved offer that could see him become a Stoke City player next week.

The Magpies are prepared to cash in on him for £15m if they feel a deal can be struck with Crystal Palace for Andros Townsend.

Ritchie, a hard-working character on the training ground, is getting on with his pre-season as a Newcastle player on the outskirts of Dublin.

But Stoke are readying a fresh offer as soon as Xherdan Shaqiri finalises his £13.5m switch to Liverpool.

Following relegation from the Premier League, Stoke are trying to form a squad capable of achieving promotion back to the top-flight at the first attempt under Gary Rowett.

Ritchie, as he has proven during spells with Newcastle and Bournemouth, has been instrumental in two promotion charges already at that level – and that makes him a sought-after player at that level.

Stoke have already had an offer in the region of £12m turned down and it is believed somewhere in the region of £15m would be enough.

If that materialises next week then Newcastle will step up their pursuit of the £17m-rated Townsend, even though he moved to Selhurst Park in a £13m deal two years ago – six months after moving to Tyneside for £12m.

Newcastle have secured the services of Brazilian winger Kenedy for the whole of next season from Chelsea, while Rolando Aarons is interesting West Brom, another relegated to the second tier last season, are tracking him. Aarons could be allowed to leave on loan rather than permanently.

Benitez is still waiting to hear if Newcastle are any closer to signing a new striker – and the likelihood is he will want two because Aleksandar Mitrovic and Dwight Gayle are available.

Fulham are expecting to finalise a deal for Mitrovic, but Newcastle have lost out on signing Nice’s Alassane Plea.

The Frenchman has moved to Borussia Monchengladbach in a £22m deal after he outlined a desire to get things tied up with the Bundesliga club, having become frustrated with the time it was taking for Premier League sides to strike a deal.

Newcastle are expected to step up efforts to bring in West Brom’s Salomon Rondon, provided they agree to pay the £16.5m release clause in his contract following relegation.

Midfielder Henri Saivet is wanted by Sivasspor, where he spent last season on loan, and have been quoted a fee of just under £2m.