David Moyes confirmed that West Ham valued Declan Rice in excess of £100m earlier this week.
West Ham haven’t been afraid to outline the transfer fee they want for Rice, but what does the player want for his career?
The answer could be Manchester United. The Reds are enduring a tumultuous season but they remain an attractive proposition for new signings. United have a squad that is almost ready for success. It’s clear that the club needs a few more quality additions and a world-class manager, but they appear to be on the cusp of getting it right and this will be the pitch for new potential signings.
United securing Champions League football this season is obviously non-negotiable as the club’s appeal to transfer targets would take a substantial – perhaps fatal – knock if they don’t finish in the top four this term. the Manchester Evening News understands signing a midfielder is United’s priority in the summer and elite midfielders don’t want to play in the Champions League, they need to.
There have been multiple midfielders linked with United over the last six months but those within the Old Trafford boardroom remain great admirers of Rice. The 23-year-old’s burgeoning reputation is certainly not unwarranted. He’s an exciting talent.
Rice was rejected by Chelsea aged 13 but he didn’t allow that setback to derail his dream. He’s now a fully-fledged England international – he was excellent at Euro 2020 – and he captains West Ham when Mark Noble is absent, which is often.
Rice has made 23 Premier League appearances for West Ham this season and he’s operated at an impressive level across those matches. Rice has averaged 2.7 dribbles, 6.6 ball recoveries, 6.2 interceptions and 4.1 defensive duels won per 90 minutes. For some context, that’s the second most ball recoveries and the fourth most interceptions per 90 in the entire league.
The data confirms the eye test with Rice. He’s everywhere on a football pitch and it almost felt like he was auditioning for a transfer to United when West Ham traveled to Manchester ahead of the winter break. If it was an audition, Rice left a stellar impression.
He’s a dynamic midfielder and he has the qualities that suggest he’s the player that United have desperately needed to anchor their midfielder and to protect their defence. United’s weakness in midfield has been a glaring issue for some time now.
Rice is contracted at West Ham until the summer of 2024 and it’s therefore not surprising that they have repeatedly suggested that their prized asset is worth £100m. West Ham will stand firm on that stance, but player power shouldn’t be underestimated.
It’s highly unlikely and almost unthinkable that Rice would ever cause unrest at West Ham to try to push through a transfer away from the club. But he’s coming to the stage of his career where a move elsewhere is becoming more appealing every day.
Regardless of a player’s talent, clubs don’t want someone within their dressing room that doesn’t want to be there.
Moyes has West Ham punching above their weight and how long he can sustain that charge for is questionable. Rice might want to leave the London club in search of major honors and has admitted as much recently to Sky Sports’ The Overlap.
“I have always said it, is that I don’t want to have a career where I’ve not won anything,” Rice said. “I have grown up as a kid and seen all these top players win the big trophies, like yourself [Neville]who won the Premier League so many times and the Champions League.
“Me as a football fan, and also as a player, I want to win the best stuff. I want to win the Premier League – I want to lift that trophy.
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“I also want to win the Champions League. I want to win the FA Cup and the League Cup, even stuff with England. I want to win it all.”
Rice will know fulfilling his ambition, which he has every right to achieve, is likelier away from West Ham. United have only won three trophies in the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era but Rice could see himself as the last piece of the jigsaw at United.
He also recently hinted that he has a degree of affection for the club. “Every time I come to Old Trafford, I always say it’s one of my favorite places to play,” Rice said. United do not need any encouragement to act on their interest in Rice, but his recent comments from him might have caught their attention. Rice is flirting with the idea of leaving West Ham and United will be more than aware.
Rice has told United what he needs and his demands suit the direction in which the club wants to go.
The transfer makes perfect sense and United should move for Rice in the summer.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.