Bournemouth lead the race for Joe Rothwell after his departure from Rovers – though Nottingham Forest have signalled their intention to make a move for the midfielder.

Rovers have confirmed Rothwell’s expected departure following his statement on social media outlining that his four years at Ewood Park were at an end.

The 27-year-old had been a transfer target for Bournemouth in January, but despite their bids reaching at least £3.5m, Rovers rejected their advances at a time when the pair looked set to be promotion rivals.

With Rothwell now becoming a free agent, after 161 appearances for Rovers since joining from Oxford United, Bournemouth still looks to be his most likely destination.

Tony Mowbray would have preferred to sell Rothwell to fund two new signings in January. One of those was Siriki Dembele, then with Peterborough United, but Rovers were unlikely to reach the same wage offering as Bournemouth who he later moved to.

Rothwell stayed, remaining a key part of the side, and played in the game with Bournemouth in Rovers’ final home game.

Speaking of the midfielder prior to his departure, Mowbray said: “There is a mutual respect working with Joe.

“I feel he is a Premier League quality player in possession of the ball and I have spoken to him about what he needs to work on and develop. He has been very, very professional.

“We all know the rumours of Bournemouth, the whispers of Bournemouth, and yet I spoke to him (ahead of the game) and he was adamant he wanted to play. There was no conflict of interest.

“He has been very professional and I think if he does leave, nobody can point the finger at him and say he wasn’t trying. He’s a good kid and I wish him well.”

The Cherries won promotion back to the Premier League, after a two-year stay in the Championship, helping by their January transfer moves.

While Rothwell wasn’t among them, he remains a target for the club who felt their business in the winter window was set to set them up for life in the Premier League.

There have been links with a possible move to West Bromwich Albion, but Nottingham Forest are also said to have joined the race, and irrespective of how they fare in the play-offs, will put an offer Rothwell’s way.

That comes as little surprise given that manager Steve Cooper is a known admirer of the former Manchester United youngster, declaring as much after February’s 2-0 win at Ewood Park.

Rothwell is no stranger to this situation, Rovers having tried to sign him in January 2018, only to wait until the summer to bring him to the club once his contract expired.

The same looks likely to happen with Bournemouth, the only difference being that Rovers will not be due any compensation in the same way that Oxford were when he moved to Ewood to become the club’s first signing post promotion.