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Manchester City Reportedly Pull Out of Race to Sign Declan Rice

by Lily White
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West Ham United are battling to reach their first European final in almost half-a-century, but the Hammers are also battling on a very different front off the field at present. Star midfielder Declan Rice is the subject of escalating interest from multiple potential suitors. Many of which are planning to make a summer move for the man that was an integral part of the England men’s football team that was named Team of the Year at the 2021 Sports Personality awards.

The 23-year-old has been a lynchpin at the heart of the West Ham midfield in recent seasons, becoming a virtual ever-present. Rice joined West Ham’s academy in 2014, having been released from the Chelsea academy that he’d played at for seven years. Chelsea’s loss has very much been West Ham’s gain, with the Kingston upon Thames-born holding midfielder playing 163 times in a Hammers jersey since making his debut in 2017. Rice is now the club vice-captain under the management of David Moyes.

Under David Moyes, West Ham appears to have found an identity again. The Hammers looked lost after departing their former Upton Park home for the former Olympic Stadium in Stratford, but Moyes and his side have galvanized the fans in the last two years, generating a white-hot atmosphere and making it a difficult place for opposition teams to come. The Hammers’ Europa League qualification and subsequent continental success – becoming the third English club to reach a European semi-final this term – has made the club infinitely more marketable, attracting one of the UK’s leading sports betting brands as its official kit sponsor and principal partner.

In fact, it is deals like the £10 million per season sponsorship that has been the catalyst for keeping stars like Rice on the West Ham wage bill. However, the issue for Moyes and the West Ham hierarchy is whether his wages and his overall importance to the team will be enough to convince Rice that the London Stadium is where his long-term future lies. One club that’s unlikely to be in the running for Rice’s signature in the close season is Premier League title hopefuls Manchester City. The Manchester Evening News believes that City has no interest in signing him this summer, even if their Brazilian icon Fernandinho opts to return to his homeland rather than sign a new contract with City into the 2022/23 campaign.

With reports suggesting that West Ham would only entertain moving on their star midfielder for a transfer fee in excess of £150m, City has bigger fish to fry this summer, as they look to finally secure a long-term replacement for Sergio Aguero. Borussia Dortmund and Norway hot-shot Erling Haaland is said to be inching ever-closer to moving to the Etihad Stadium, representing the same club that his father, Alfie, played for back in 2000-03.

The most likely destinations for Declan Rice this summer

Chelsea

One intriguing prospect is for Declan Rice to return to his boyhood club Chelsea, where his football career began. As a south-west Londoner, Rice remains a Chelsea fan and the current Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel described him as a “Chelsea boy” earlier this season. Tuchel has always spoken very highly of him in pre-match press conferences, adding that he plays “with a lot of responsibility” and describing him as a “strategic-minded player”.

The biggest question mark surrounding Rice and a potential move to Chelsea is whether the Blues can afford the £150m transfer fee. In an ordinary summer transfer window, one might consider them capable of paying such a sum, but this is no ordinary year for Chelsea. The Stamford Bridge club was rocked by owner Roman Abramovich’s decision to sell the club, with his replacement still very much up in the air.

Even Tuchel has admitted that the club’s management and recruitment department has its “hands tied” financially until they discover who will succeed Abramovich at the Stamford Bridge helm. Ongoing sanctions against the club have already prevented the Blues from making provisional moves on transfer targets, but Tuchel is hopeful that a change in ownership will come quickly to give the German time to work his magic.

The Blues could also look to promote from within, given the strength of their academy talent. Midfielder Conor Gallagher has been a shining light in the Crystal Palace side this season, where he’s enjoyed a 12-month loan. Giving the likes of Gallagher their Chelsea bow could be a more prudent option than throwing all their eggs into the Declan Rice basket. It’s also true that the club’s number-one priority will be to replace departing senior center-halves Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen.

The one club that is crying out for a Declan Rice-type midfielder is Manchester United. The Red Devils have struggled to find the right formula in the middle of the park for several seasons now. The likely departure of Paul Pogba on a free transfer and the unsuccessful nature of Brazilian signing Fred means United’s incoming manager Erik ten Hag will be keen to find the right kind of midfield partner to Portuguese playmaker Bruno Fernandes.

The United wage bill is expected to be even lighter still this summer with the likes of Nemanja Matic, Jesse Lingard, and veteran striker Edinson Cavani all likely to move on to pastures new. This would give the club’s hierarchy plenty of room for maneuver to entice Rice to Old Trafford – even without the lure of Champions League football next term. Too many of the United squad have failed to prioritize football, instead choosing to put their image over their careers in recent seasons.

Why Gary Neville thinks West Ham should take the ‘mature’ approach to Rice’s future

Rice is said to have turned down three contract offers from the West Ham hierarchy in recent months. Hammers boss David Moyes has remained largely philosophical about the situation, given that Rice’s current contract runs until the summer of 2025. This means the East London club could dig their heels in and play hardball with their rivals if they wish.

Former Manchester United defender and current Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville believes the Hammers could take a leaf out of Manchester United’s book and approach Rice’s future in the same way that United handled Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure to Real Madrid. Neville alluded to the way Ronaldo departed “the first time” from Old Trafford and how it “didn’t have an impact on the club” and its strategy going forward because “everyone knew what was happening” and the speculation was nipped in the bud.

Neville said that West Ham should be “mature” about the situation and acknowledge that Rice’s future needn’t be “played out in the media”. By maintaining open lines of communication with the fans and the press, Rice’s association with the club could avoid being tarnished and the club can still get the transfer fee they are looking for.

 

By Kyle Serpa

Bio: Kyle is a traveler, foodie, and football enthusiast. #footie4life

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