ANDONI Iraola expressed his desire for Cherries to keep hold of Lloyd Kelly, insisting: “He is one of our best players.”

Kelly is entering the final months of his contract at Vitality Stadium and has been linked with a host of big clubs in recent weeks.

Cherries turned down a £20million bid from Tottenham Hotspur for the defender at the end of the recent transfer window.

Spurs are reportedly still interested, with the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool and AC Milan also said to be keen on signing the former Bristol City man.

Speaking to the Daily Echo earlier this month, Kelly said: “To be honest, I don't really listen to a lot of the stuff.

“My focus at the moment is performing and performing well week in, week out for Bournemouth.

“That's where my focus is until the end of the season.”

When fit, Kelly has impressed for Cherries this season, both at centre-back and left-back under Iraola.

The Daily Echo understands Cherries would prefer to risk losing Kelly for free next summer, as opposed to sanctioning a cut-price deal in January.

Asked if he fears losing the 25-year-old when the transfer window reopens, head coach Iraola said: “I don’t know what will happen.

“I don’t want to lose him. For me, he is a very, very good player.

“I would say he is one of our best players and he has been playing really well for me, the games he has been available.

“He started with a small injury, but whenever he has been fit, he has been doing really well for us.

“I value him very highly. It’s normal that he is associated with other big clubs, because I think he has a good level.

“Of course I don’t want to lose him.”

Bournemouth Echo: Lloyd Kelly's contract expires next summerLloyd Kelly's contract expires next summer (Image: Richard Crease)

Last week Ryan Christie joined Philip Billing in putting an end to speculation surrounding their futures by committing to long-term deals with Cherries.

Of the current squad, only two players who have featured this season in Kelly and Adam Smith have deals expiring in 2024. Fringe players Ryan Fredericks, Emiliano Marcondes and Darren Randolph are also entering the last months of their respective contracts.

Asked if any more players are close to signing new deals, Iraola said: “I’m not the one negotiating the conditions with the players.

“I don’t think I should be the one. It is something the club has to deal with.”

Quizzed on if it helps settle the squad to have most players tied down to new contracts, Iraola said: “It doesn’t change so much in the day-to-day.

“I know at the end I have my team and they will be here, I was going to say until the summer, but some of them maybe in January, you don’t know.

“But from market to market, you know the players you have and you can work with them.

“I think they are all professional, even the ones that finish their contracts, normally they have good performances and try to push until the end.

“I have had this experience in other clubs and normally players are not looking at their contract.

“They just give their best, they try to train and they are professional.

“But it is good, thinking more mid to long-term goals, yes.”