Arsenal has reportedly made West Ham captain Declan Rice their top target for next summer. It’s understood that the Gunners are ‘growing in confidence’ that they can beat Chelsea to the midfielder’s signature at the end of the season, according to The Times.
Rice, 24, has been linked with a move away from the Hammers for some time after advancing as one of the Premier League’s best midfielders. The England international has been tipped to make a return to Chelsea after leaving the club at the youth level earlier in his career but a move to the Emirates Stadium could now be on the cards.
Earlier this season, while at the World Cup, Rice declared his aspirations to play in the Champions League. With West Ham lurking close to the relegation zone, a big-money move looks likely this year. “Yeah – one hundred per cent I want to play in the Champions League,” the 23-year-old said.
“For the last two or three years I’ve been saying that. I’ve been playing consistently well for my club and I feel like I really want to keep pushing.
“I see my friends here (with England at the World Cup), who are playing Champions League and competing for big trophies. You only get one career and at the end of it you want to look back at what you’ve won and the biggest games you’ve played in. I really want to do that.”
Rice is expected to be the subject of a mass bidding war in the near future, with Manchester United also said to be keen. His current deal at the London Stadium expires in 2024, with an option to extend a further year, meaning West Ham are expected to sell whilst they have the chance.
A new midfielder and winger has been made a priority for the January transfer window. The Gunners missed out on Mykhailo Mudryk recently to Chelsea and will be aiming to seek revenge by purchasing the Blues’ long-term target.
Currently, Arsenal possesses a significant advantage in pursuing Rice due to their likely inclusion in the Champions League next season. The Gunners are, of course, on top of the tree whilst Chelsea finds themselves lurking in mid-table – ten points off the top four.
The report from The Times claims Rice has already rejected three new offers from West Ham. In the summer, it was understood that the Englishman would cost around £ 150 million, with Arsenal prepared to make a significant effort to land the midfielder. The report states that Rice could now be available for £80m.