SIMON Francis believes Nathan Ake and Cherries are “the perfect match” and is adamant the Dorset club will hold on to their highly-rated Dutchman.

National newspaper reports over the weekend suggested Premier League champions Manchester City were "considering a bid of £40m" for the defender in January.

Manchester United and Tottenham have also been linked, while it was also claimed Chelsea had first refusal on Ake, who joined Cherries from the London club for £20million in the summer of 2017 following a successful loan spell the previous season.

However, captain Francis is confident boss Eddie Howe’s presence at the helm and his preferred style of play will be enough to retain the 23-year-old Ake at Vitality Stadium.

Francis said: “We are in a comfortable position to keep hold of those kind of players. They enjoy playing here, we know that.

“If big clubs come in for our players, that’s only a positive and means we are doing something right.

“Nath is a great age and is playing some fantastic football. I couldn’t think of a better club for him to progress at than here, because of the manager and our style of play.

“It could be easy for him to be lured to a big club where, potentially, he might not play week in, week out. But here, he’s playing in a good footballing side and he gets a lot of the ball, he defends really well and reads the game excellently.

“I think we are the perfect match for him at the moment.”

Ake is one of three Cherries players not to have missed a minute of Premier League action this season, the others being Steve Cook and Asmir Begovic.

And the experienced Francis was keen to heap praise on the former Feyenoord youngster for his exploits in the heart of defence.

The skipper said: “That position almost fell upon him when he first came here because he saw himself maybe playing in midfield and he played left-back before that.

“He just looks so comfortable at centre-half. Considering his height, he wins a lot of headers and reads the game excellently.

“I have played alongside him and while he’s not the most vocal centre-half, you can take your lead off his line because you know where he is going to be.

“I don’t want to hype him up any more because it might attract more interest in him!

“He’s a great lad and is very grounded. He loves coming in every day and working and improving.

“That goes for a lot of players here – this could be our best season yet. We want to keep our best players to give ourselves the best chance of doing well.”

Cherries return to action on Saturday, when they travel to Fulham.

The Cottagers have the leakiest defence in the division having conceded no fewer than 25 goals in nine outings since promotion from the Championship last season.