Declan Rice transfer could leave everyone winners – even West Ham

The conviction of David Moyes’ sales pitch is one of the lasting memories of the 2022-23 season.

“Undoubtedly he will be a top player and he will undoubtedly be a British transfer record and more when he leaves the club,” the West Ham manager said in February when assessing Declan Rice’s performance in the 1-1 draw with Newcastle United.

Moyes was in no doubt about Rice’s status – 18 months earlier he had suggested it would take “Bank of England money” to secure the midfielder’s services. Now others are finally waking up to his way of thinking.

It is no surprise that West Ham have rejected two offers from Arsenal (a club-record proposal worth up to £90m, which includes a £75m fee and £15m in add-ons) and a initial offer of DKK 80 million GBP (US$102m) with an additional £10m in additions from Manchester City.

West Ham fans will not be happy to see Rice go, but if he were to leave the club he has represented since joining them from Chelsea’s academy at the age of 14, this probably represents the best case scenario.

The player has his pick of the teams that finished in last season’s top two – City, the treble winners under one of the best managers in the modern history of the game; and Arsenal, the side who played such exciting football by pressing them all the way last term, under their own inspirational manager in Mikel Arteta.

Mikel Arteta (right) with Declan Rice (Photo: Ben Stansall/AFP via Getty Images)

The club, meanwhile, can play hardball knowing they have an asset whose stock has risen sharply since he lifted the Europa Conference League in Prague, West Ham’s first major trophy since 1980, despite his current contract expiring next year, with the option for another 12 months.

Majority shareholder David Sullivan, deputy chairman Karren Brady and other members of the board have no reason to sell cheap when you can make more than £100m.

Even Moyes will be satisfied, provided he is handed the money West Ham are receiving to allow him to reshape the squad and challenge once more for European qualification. The club have been linked with moves for Fulham’s Joao Palhinha, Leicester City winger Harvey Barnes, Bristol City midfielder Alex Scott and Marseille midfielder Matteo Guendouzi.

Rice will comfortably surpass West Ham’s record earnings for a player, a title previously set when Marseille signed Dimitri Payet for £25m in 2017.

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But reinvesting around £100m brings challenges. West Ham spent over £160m last summer on Lucas Paqueta, Alphonse Areola, Flynn Downes, Thilo Kehrer, Maxwel Cornet, Gianluca Scamacca, Nayef Aguerd and Emerson, recruits who produced mixed results.

You have to learn from the clubs that have gone before. Aston Villa, for example, got it right after Jack Grealish’s £100m move to Manchester City in 2021; However, Spurs were wrong when they reinvested the 85.1 million. £ (then a world record fee) that they earned selling Gareth Bale to Real Madrid in 2013. Of the seven players they bought that summer, only Christian Eriksen can be seen as a success.

Athletics have analyzed why Rice is in demand and how he can improve Arsenal and City, but you have to go back to January to understand why West Ham’s hierarchy insist on holding out for a record fee.

When Chelsea signed Enzo Fernandez from Portuguese side Benfica for a British record fee of £106.8m, the midfielder had made just 113 career appearances. It was his performances in the 2022 World Cup for winners Argentina that saw his valuation soar.

Internally, West Ham believe they can break Fernandez’s record fee, with Rice an England international and sought-after talent with far more experience than the Argentine had when he moved to Stamford Bridge.

(Photo: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Rice, who made his league debut in May 2017, has made 245 appearances for the club in all competitions, scoring 15 goals in that time. He has also earned 43 caps for the national team since his England debut in 2019.

“A lot has been said about it and when you see what’s happened with the prices I think Declan will blow it out of the water when it comes around,” said Moyes.

Last season, Rice also showed he has the mental toughness to succeed at a high level. His leadership was questioned by supporters during West Ham’s slump in form, but if anything he grew into his role as captain as their league position became more precarious.

Athletics revealed that two team meetings were held following the 2-0 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur in February. Moyes and his backroom were unaware that talks had been held, but it led to West Ham beating Nottingham Forest 4-0 in their next league game.

“He has been our main leader this season and he takes responsibility for everything,” Vladimir Coufal said. “He’s still a young player, but he saved our season mainly with how he played on the pitch. When he plays like that, everyone else feels more confident.

“You see it every day in training, whether it’s his passing, dribbling or speed, because he’s really quick on his feet. He has everything and I have said it many times: he is on his way to becoming one of the best holding midfielders in the world.”

Rice must fulfill Moyes and Coufal’s prophecy. He deserves a move to a ‘big six’ side and it is testament to Rice’s legacy that he will leave West Ham in a far stronger position on and off the pitch.

(Top photo: Daniel Leal/AFP via Getty Images)

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