Are David Moyes and West Ham changing tactics regarding Declan Rice's future?
Was this the moment West Ham admitted defeat in the ongoing battle to keep Declan Rice? Was this the first public admission from David Moyes that the best they can hope to do is make sure they get as much money as possible for their star player in the summer? It certainly sounded like it.
Moyes was in a relaxed mood after his side had played really well to secure a much-needed, but also much-deserved, point against Newcastle United.
After so much pressure had been dumped on his shoulders amid growing expectation he would lose his job if West Ham had lost to Everton, West Ham have lost just one of their past six games.
Rice has been integral to this mini, mid-season revival. He was superb against Newcastle and did as much as anyone to turn the tide in West Ham’s favour after they had fallen behind to Callum Wilson’s goal inside the first three minutes.
He was everywhere. He looked physically stronger and sharper than anyone on the pitch and repeatedly broke up Newcastle’s attacking play. He looked like a Rolls Royce player, or rather a top of the range Tesla in the age of the electric car. He is a player who will upgrade almost any team he plays for. West Ham are fortunate he remains in claret and blue. But for how much longer?
Asked what he had made of Rice’s performance and the leadership qualities he showed in the cauldron that is St James’ Park these days, Moyes gave a surprisingly raw and candidly honest answer.
“I don’t know if I have the words to describe it, you probably have the words, you all saw it,” said Moyes. “I thought he was a top player in the first half, he really was. He showed so many things.
“It’s interesting, undoubtedly Declan is going to be a top player and undoubtedly he will be [sic] a British transfer record if he ever leaves West Ham. It will be a British transfer record and more.
“You shouldn’t [ask how much that will be], not when you look at what you can buy for £85 million or £90 million these days, so….”
It was a response that startled many who have listened to Moyes navigate these sorts of questions in the past. The Scot was not asked about Rice leaving or how much he was worth, he volunteered it.
The prospect of West Ham cashing in on Rice will send a shudder through West Ham supporters but at the age 24 he has resisted all attempts to persuade him to sign a new contract and other clubs, those able to offer Champions League football and regular shots at silverware, are circling like Hyenas waiting for a wounded animal to give up resisting the inevitable conclusion.
Arsenal want Rice and were willing to pay around £70 million for him in January. Chelsea, where Rice’s best friend, Mason Mount, plays and where he started his career as a kid, will also pounce if they get any sort of encouragement to do so. The two Manchester clubs, City and United, are bound to be interested. Liverpool have a desperate need for a player of Rice’s style and quality too.
He is probably well beyond Newcastle’s budget as things stand, but the England international would be ideal for Eddie Howe’s midfield too if he would ever consider making the move to the North East. Some Newcastle’s supporters actually applauded some of Rice’s play on Saturday evening, others audibly gasped. That is virtually unheard of on Tyneside.
So what would it take to persuade West Ham to sell in the summer? The British record has only just been broken, Chelsea paying £105 million to Benfica for Argentina international Enzo Fernandez.
Moyes has publicly stated it will take a lot more than that.
With Jude Bellingham, Rice’s midfield partner at the World Cup, also set to leave Borussia Dortmund in the next transfer window, England could well have two players moving for more than £100 million before the end of the year.
Rice has been a brilliant player for West Ham and Moyes will hope he stays for at least one more season, but they will not keep him long term and he, like everyone else, knows it.