Arsenal are confident of sealing a deal to sign Declan Rice after the midfielder captained West Ham to a dramatic victory over Fiorentina in the Europa Conference League final on Wednesday.
Rice is Arsenal’s top target and they intend to move quickly to try to fend off interest from Bayern Munich, Manchester United and Newcastle. Mikel Arteta’s side are leading the race for the 24-year-old and talks with West Ham are expected to accelerate soon.
West Ham hope to receive at least £100m for Rice, who wants to leave, and it would strengthen their position if an auction developed. Arsenal want to pay about £90m.
The expectation is that Rice will make the switch to the Emirates Stadium. There is mutual respect between Arteta and the England midfielder. Rice, who is keen not to leave London, admires Arteta’s football and it is understood he wants to move to Arsenal.
West Ham’s chairman, David Sullivan, confirmed on Thursday that Rice would be allowed to leave. “We promised him he could go,” he told TalkSport. “He set his heart on going and in due course he has to get on and we have to get a replacement. It is not something we wanted to happen.
“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.
“I think the offers will start to come today. Three or four clubs have shown interest but, out of respect to West Ham, while we’re still playing, you don’t make offers for players.”
Sullivan also said West Ham have no plans to sack David Moyes. They will hold talks with the manager to see whether he wants to stay.
Rice, who joined West Ham’s academy after leaving Chelsea at the age of 14, has not let speculation over his future affect his football and he will depart as a club legend after the Conference League triumph.
It was the perfect way for Rice to say farewell to West Ham, who had not won a trophy for 43 years. He walked back on to the pitch almost two hours after the final whistle, taking photos with the trophy and celebrating with club staff.
Rice’s deal expires next June, with the club option of an additional year, and he wants to play in the Champions League. Thomas Tuchel, Bayern’s manager, has spoken to him but it is unlikely that Rice, who became a father last year, will want to go to Germany.
Arsenal could be made to sweat if there is a late move from United, who are looking to strengthen their midfield. United’s interest in Rice is solid. However, their priorities are to sign the Chelsea midfielder Mason Mount and buy a striker. United are desperate to sign Tottenham’s Harry Kane, who is also wanted by Real Madrid, and they would need to sell players to free up funds for Rice.
That leaves Arsenal in the driving seat. Arteta wants more power in midfield after missing out on the title to Manchester City and is expected to make space for Rice by selling Granit Xhaka to Bayer Leverkusen. Rice would become the most expensive player in their history. Nicolas Pépé, who joined from Lille for £72m in 2019, is their record signing. – Guardian