West Ham United have decided on the first player they want to sign in the summer transfer window once club captain Declan Rice leaves in a big-money deal, according to a report.
West Ham ended their season in style on Wednesday night by beating Fiorentina 2-1 to win the Europa Conference League. It is the club’s first major trophy since they won the 1980 FA Cup and their first European title since the 1965 European Cup Winners’ Cup.
Rice has had a huge impact on West Ham’s season, making 50 appearances in all competitions and captaining them in almost every game he has played. In those 50 matches, the England international has notched five goals and four assists.
However, the European triumph will probably be the last time West Ham fans see Rice play for the club. In an interview with talkSPORT, club chairman David Sullivan revealed he has ‘promised’ Rice a transfer this summer. That comes after he rejected several contract offers to stay on at the London Stadium.
Sullivan added that there are ‘three or four clubs’ showing interest in Rice. Currently it is Arsenal and Bayern who are leading the race, though Rice has also been linked with Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea.
Given the 24-year-old’s top performances for the Irons, they should be able to get at least £70m for him, potentially as much as £100m depending on how high his potential suitors are willing to go. West Ham would normally ask for way more than this but the fact Rice’s contract runs out in 2024 weakens their negotiating position.
According to The Telegraph, one of the main players West Ham will use the Rice money on is Leicester winger Harvey Barnes, as he is a ‘top target’ for the East London club.
The lively attacker is coming off the back of a good season, having netted 13 goals in 34 league appearances. Leicester cannot keep hold of him following their relegation to the Championship.
West Ham in great position for Leicester raid
West Ham are described as an ‘attractive’ destination for players such as Barnes this summer given their Europa Conference League win and the fact they have resultantly qualified for next season’s Europa League.
Tottenham Hotspur, Aston Villa and Newcastle United are named as transfer rivals for West Ham to contend with. Even though David Moyes’ side finished below all of those teams in the league, they are at the front of the queue to sign Barnes. That is because West Ham ‘have made the most serious move so far’ and will open talks with Leicester imminently now that both teams have begun their off season.
The Telegraph also provide some information on how much Barnes may cost West Ham. Leicester have set his price tag at £40m, but relegation may force them to accept less. West Ham have been tipped to submit an opening offer worth £30m.
While Barnes’ capture would improve West Ham’s attacking options, they would still need to replace Rice’s influence in midfield. They have identified James Ward-Prowse and Kalvin Phillips as two players who would fit Moyes’ system.
Ward-Prowse is more likely to sign for West Ham than Phillips as the latter has decided to stay at City to try and force his way into their starting eleven. Ward-Prowse, meanwhile, is in a similar situation to Barnes after Southampton were relegated.
The 25-year-old Foxes star could prove to be a great signing by West Ham. At Leicester he has shown he has the ability to score great goals and chip in with assists by using his pace or dribbling skills to get into great crossing positions. The wide man has good pedigree too, having played in all three European competitions with Leicester and won one cap for England.
Barnes’ main rival for a spot at left wing, should he officially join West Ham, would be Said Benrahma. While Benrahma has just enjoyed a good season himself, it would not be a surprise if Barnes usurped him and became Moyes’ first-choice left winger.
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