EDDIE Howe said centurion Nathan Ake had never been affected by “media talk and transfer speculation” and insisted: “He is part of our long-term plan.”

The Cherries defender brought up 100 games for the club in all competitions during last Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Norwich at Vitality Stadium.

Ake joined the Dorset outfit from Chelsea for £20million in the summer of 2017, having impressed under Howe during a previous loan spell from Stamford Bridge.

Blues scout Piet de Visser this week urged Frank Lampard’s side to buy back the Holland international.

He told Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant: “Ake should have played for Chelsea by now. He’s so good.

“I hope they buy him back. That boy is perfect for them and he has played with Lampard.”

The Telegraph this week also claimed Ake could again be targeted by Leicester City in January.

But having seen the talented centre-half bring up his century for Cherries, Howe insisted Ake was a big part of the club’s future.

The manager told the Daily Echo: “He is part of our long-term plan.

“Of course, he is going to have admirers from other clubs, I think that goes with the territory at this level.

“It’s part of the modern-day Premier League player that, if you do well, your media attention increases and you have to deal with that. That’s another tick in the box for Nath because he has dealt with all that. It’s never affected him, all the media talk and transfer speculation.

“The biggest compliment I can give Nathan is in his conduct, his professionalism and his leadership.

“I can’t speak highly enough of him.

“The way he conducts himself. He does it with very minimal fuss, he goes about his work but is determined to improve.”

Ake, who has been ever-present in the Premier League this season, is expected to feature for Cherries at former loan club Watford tomorrow (3pm).

Asked whether he was the perfect centre-half for Cherries, Howe replied: “He certainly fits our style and how we want to play, being comfortable with the ball and having the bravery to play, build attacks and all the things that are the hallmarks of our defenders. Nathan would be a great one for our younger players to look at and all the way through the club to say ‘that’s the ideal centre-half for us’.

“He’s an absolute winner and a really good guy to manage – he sets the tone in terms of character for the players.

“He is now a permanent fixture of our back four, a model of consistency and developing and improving all the time.”