Declan Rice remains Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta’s ‘top priority’ this summer, despite fears West Ham are playing ‘games’ with their captain’s asking price.
Rice was at Chelsea until he was 14 before being drafted by the Hammers.
He was handed his senior debut for the Londoners by Slaven Bilic in May 2017 when he was 18.
Since becoming a mainstay of the West Ham side in the 2017-18 season, Rice has gone from strength to strength and is now the club captain.
However he is ready for a new challenge and wants to play in the Champions League having reached the semi-finals of the Europa League and Europa Conference League with Irons.
The 24-year-old’s contract expires in 2024 – although West Ham have the option of extending his contract for a year – and he is expected to leave at the end of the season.
ArsenalChelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool are all believed to be interested, with the Gunners reportedly leading the race at the moment.
Mikel Arteta’s side are preparing for a large summer transfer window, regardless of their position in the league at the end of the season.
The Spanish coach is keen to strengthen his midfield and is also rumored to be interested in signing Chelsea’s Mason Mount, Brighton’s Moises Caicedo and Real Sociedad’s Martin Zubimendi.
As well as a new midfielder (or two), Arteta is hoping to sign a central defender or right-back, and potentially a winger.
Transfer pundit Ben Jacobs has provided some insight into Arsenal’s summer plans, insisting a second-place finish in the Premier League could result in a «more aggressive» transfer window.
Writing for CaughtOffside, Jacobs said Arsenal will be «pretty busy» at the end of the season and a second-place finish will give Arteta «a real idea» of what he needs to do to close the gap on Manchester City.
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Rice ‘remains’ one of Arteta’s ‘top priorities’ and the player ‘has been raving about both the Spaniard and Arsenal’.
In another push to the Gunners, Rice would prefer to stay in London. A move to Chelsea may be in the cards, but they won’t compete in Europe next season.
«West Ham have resigned themselves to losing Rice» but can now be «more bullish» with Premier League survival all but assured.
Had they gone down, asking for more than £100m would have been very unrealistic, but that’s what the Hammers want for their captain.
«The suitors still feel there are matches going on» with David Moyes insisting Rice should cost a UK record fee, which was set by Enzo Fernandez when he moved to Chelsea for £106m in January.
West Ham hold plenty of cards here with the England midfielder under contract for another year, plus the option of a one-year extension.
Luckily for the Gunners, «there still remains a chance Rice is sold for less than the £100-120m West Ham are pushing for», although it depends on the level of interest.
Moyes won’t get in the way of Rice this summer with the 24-year-old set to «basically triple his salary elsewhere.»
West Ham’s «bargaining position» has improved after a 1-0 win against Manchester United put them in a very strong position to avoid relegation, and they are hoping for a bidding war for their star player.
Jacobs points out that Arsenal have sent scouts to check Zubimendi, although their interest is not as advanced as reports in Spain to suggest.
Arsenal ‘have not ruled out’ rekindling their interest in Caicedo and are ‘aware’ of Mount’s situation at Stamford Bridge. The latter expires next year and Chelsea are expected to sell him this summer to avoid losing him on a free transfer.
Jacobs added: ‘Arsenal can also choose to strengthen their defense and Crystal Palace’s Marc Guehi is a target.
William Saliba’s injury has shown Arsenal need more centre-back depth. But I think Jakub Kiwior will be an important player for the team next season.’
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