Arsenal growing confident of signing Declan Rice ahead of Chelsea, Man City and Manchester United
Declan Rice is Arsenal's No1 target this summer and there is growing confidence at the club they can win the race to sign him amid competition from Chelsea and both Manchester clubs.
The Gunners have enjoyed a brilliant season under Mikel Arteta and the club's owners are ready to back him again in the transfer market as they bid to kick on.
Rice is viewed as the ideal addition as he suits Arsenal's recruitment model. The West Ham captain is 24 and has his best years ahead of him. Like the rest of the Arsenal squad, Rice is ambitious, wanting to play in the Champions League and compete for trophies.
There is an acceptance at West Ham that Rice will leave this summer. He is in the final two years of his contract and has no plans to sign an extension. Competition for Rice is expected to be fierce, but there is optimism Arsenal can land him.
The Gunners wanted to sign a midfielder in January and Rice was considered, but West Ham insisted he was not for sale at any price and he would have been reluctant to leave the club in the middle of a relegation battle.
There has been no direct talk between the clubs since, with Rice focused on keeping West Ham in the Premier League and winning the Europa Conference League, but Arsenal's hand is stronger now, with the club eight points clear at the top of the Premier League with 10 games to go and Champions League qualification all but secured.
That makes the Gunners an attractive project to Rice and they hope it gives them the edge over their rivals, while Arteta's record in developing young players adds to their pulling power.
Chelsea are admirers of Rice and it has long been thought he would return to his boyhood club after being released by their academy at the age of 14. The midfielder also enjoys a close relationship with Mason Mount.
Chelsea, however, are unlikely to qualify for the Champions League and Mount's future is uncertain at Stamford Bridge. The midfielder is attracting interest from Liverpool and Bayern Munich, with the latter now coached by former Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel.
The prospect of the two Manchester clubs coming in for Rice would increase the competition for his signature. United have been scouting him, while City are expected to be in the market for a midfielder this summer.
West Ham will use the strong interest in Rice to ensure they maximise the fee they get for him and in the past they have wanted £150million. They will struggle to get that fee now but will use the valuations of Enzo Fernandez, Jude Bellingham and Moises Caicedo as a benchmark.
Arsenal are attracted to Rice as he could operate at the base of midfield or as a No8. Rice's character also suits the culture Arteta has built and he comes with glowing references for his work ethic and leadership qualities.