Football Features

Declan Rice transfer latest: Six things we know about Arsenal, Man City transfer race

By Ben Green

Six things we know about Arsenal, Man City transfer race copy

Published: 13:00, 29 June 2023

Declan Rice appears to be on his way out of West Ham — a notion confirmed by the club’s chairman, David Sullivan.

“He set his heart on going and in due course he has to get on and we have to get a replacement,” Sullivan told talkSPORT a day after West Ham won the Europa Conference League.

“We offered him £200,000 a week 18 months ago and he turned it down. You can’t keep a player who doesn’t want to be there.”

It’s been a beautiful romance between Rice and the club who identified his talents as a teenager in 2014 after he was tossed on the scrap heap by Chelsea. In the proceeding nine years, Rice has gone on to make 245 appearances for the club, inherit the armband off Mark Noble and captain the club to European glory.

But, as the saying goes, ‘all good things (must) come to an end’, and an amicable divorce seems almost a foregone conclusion this summer. Where will he end up? Clubs have been frantically circling, most prominently Arsenal and Man City — and here is where we’re at now.

Who is interested in Declan Rice?

Interest from north London has been quite pronounced for a while. Reports started to emerge at the start of the year between the two parties, and prominent names have come out and thrown their weight behind the idea — some even suggesting the deal has been wrapped up for some time.

In April, Ray Parlour said on David Seaman’s podcast, Seaman Says: “He’ll be at Arsenal next year! He’s definitely going to be at Arsenal next year.”

In January, Arsenal icon Emmanuel Petit was heard on beIN Sports saying: “Declan, if you’re listening, my message is very simple: if you want to improve and win silverware you have to come to Arsenal.”

The Gunners remain the frontrunners for his signature, and you can see why Mikel Arteta would be interested in the player. At 24, he is already a club captain, with those leadership qualities paramount to galvanising his dressing room with the expected departure of Granit Xhaka.

As well as being a ball destroyer, and one of the best on the planet at reading the game, with his interceptions and blocks two major components of his game, he is a supreme athlete and technician.

His close control, driving runs and attacking threat often go under the radar at West Ham, where he is mainly tasked with defending first and foremost, a product of David Moyes’ counter-attacking set-up. When he surges with the ball and gets into tight attacking areas, though, he is utterly ruthless.

It may sound a tad outlandish, but his goals against Dinamo Zagreb last season, and Gent this, where he picked the ball up in his own half and stormed the pitch before tucking home, may explain why West Ham first-team coach Kevin Nolan recently likened him to Steven Gerrard…

His 16 carries per 90 minutes in 2022/23 was more than Martin Odegaard (15), Ilkay Gundogan (15), Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (14), Kevin De Bruyne (14) and Romeo Lavia (13). There is potential for him to be refined into a floating 8, and that may be why Arsenal are looking at him.

It’s also why Man City entered the race for his signature and lodged a £90m bid for him earlier this week, though that was promptly rejected by West Ham. Arsenal responded after having two offers themselves rebuffed by launching a £105m bid on Tuesday night, forcing City to pull out of the race.

There were suggestions that West Ham are still not satisfied by the terms of Arsenal’s offer — chiefly the structure of their payments — but reports indicate a deal has finally been agreed, though the payment structure is yet to be decided.

How much could Rice cost?

The notion that Rice will cost any prospective buyers over £100m has not been a recent revelation. As early as May 2021, West Ham boss Moyes said: “I don’t agree with the owners that Declan Rice is a £100m footballer. Far, far more than £100m. Far, far more.”

He reiterated his stance a year later in March 2022: “Yeah [he’s worth more than £100m]. I think I’ve said everything there is to say about Declan. He’s a really important player for West Ham, he’s someone who we value greatly and you can see what he means to the team.”

And then again in April 2022, he added: “If you are interested, well, it will be north of that [£100m]. One hundred (million pounds) was cheap last summer. One hundred and fifty just now would be minimum but he is not for sale. What I do know is that it means there are only certain clubs that could even consider it.”

So, it appears West Ham have firmly established their price tag for Rice: A fee of at least £100m. And after laughing Arsenal out of the building with their first two bids — and West Ham rejecting City’s £90m proposal — The Hammers appear to have finally got their wish: a fee that exceeds £100m.

When does Rice’s contract run out?

There has been a lot of talk that Rice’s contract expires next summer, but that is not the case. It is set to run down in 2024, but the club have the option of triggering a one-year extension which, if he stays put — which is looking increasingly unlikely — they will trigger. In essence, he has two years remaining.

What has Rice said?

Rice has been decidedly tight-lipped when discussing his future, playing a PR blinder to keep West Ham fans happy, such is the mutual respect and affection between the two.

“It’s flattering to be wanted by a lot of clubs but the badge on my chest tonight is West Ham,” said Rice after West Ham’s Conference League final win over Fiorentina.

“I’ve got two years left on my contract and ultimately it’s up to the people above. Until the day I walk out of this club I’ll give absolutely everything and I’ll wear my heart on my sleeve for this badge.

“The last two or three years it’s been non-stop about me. To read it myself is actually getting quite boring. I see it all the time, but I can’t help that, it comes with playing football every day and doing what I do.

“I genuinely don’t know what’s happening at the minute, that’s my honest answer. I’ve completely blocked away from the whole situation because it would be totally wrong.

“My focus tonight, and it has been since the World Cup, was to win this trophy and keep West Ham in the Premier League. We’ve done that so I’m going to enjoy tonight.”

He also recently posted an Instagram picture alongside Arsenal forward Bukayo Saka following England’s 7-0 win over North Macedonia. Although completely harmless, given Saka just scored his first professional hat-trick, Rice probably would have know it would stir the pot quite a bit.

Even more so when Saka replied to the post with a red and white emoji, the colours of Arsenal, adding further fuel to the flames of speculation.

What have West Ham said?

As mentioned, the club’s chairman has already confirmed that Rice will be leaving this summer, adding that several clubs have shown an interest, but they ‘respectfully’ waited until after the club’s Conference League final to start asking questions.

Moyes himself recently conceded that it’s likely Rice will go this summer. He said last month: “We’d love for him to be a West Ham player but we are aware that might not be the case at the end of the season.

“So that’s one of the scenarios around planning. There are plans that we have Dec here but we’re also fully aware there is a good chance we won’t have him.”


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How could West Ham replace Rice?

There are several options West Ham could look at in order to replace Rice. One of the latest names to emerge is Denis Zakaria, who spent last season on loan at Chelsea from Juventus. Although ignored for the majority of the campaign, Zakaria has all the requisite tools to really enhance and amplify West Ham’s Rice-less midfield, combining energy, tenacity, dynamism and skill.

Fulham’s tackle machine Joao Palhinha is another name that has been floating about, but there are suggestions he would cost upwards of £50m to lure away from Craven Cottage, something West Ham may not be willing to do, despite the obvious ‘defensive’ qualities the Portuguese brings to the table. A more realistic signing could be Monaco’s 24-year-old France international Youssouf Fofana, who looks the complete package.

Conor Gallagher looks like another obvious player to remedy the Rice void, given his athleticism and bite, not least because Chelsea will be looking to offload several players this summer. Southampton’s Romeo Lavia would be another option, albeit a very risky one given his age and rawness.

Fortuna Dusseldorf’s Ao Tanaka has emerged as a pretty left-field candidate, but that may be the inspiration of impending technical director Tim Steidten, who has supreme Bundesliga knowledge.

A few other intriguing names include Tunisian midfielder Ellyes Skhiri — who is now a free agent after leaving Cologne — former Arsenal midfielder Matteo Guendouzi, James Ward-Prowse, Valentin Rongier, Ibrahim Sangare, Ben Sheaf and Mats Wieffer.

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