West Ham refuse to knock down Declan Rice transfer fee despite Arsenal pressure to cash in on club captain
West Ham remain determined to play hardball in securing a British record transfer fee for Declan Rice, despite acceptance that this summer is their final chance to cash in on the midfielder.
The Hammers have put a price-tag of around £120million on their captain, who has turned down several offers of a lucrative new contract and stated his desire to play Champions League football.
That would comfortably surpass the £106.8m fee Chelsea paid to sign Argentina midfielder Enzo Fernandez from Benfica in January, with the Blues still holding interest in their former academy player, though Arsenal have emerged as strong favourites.
“He’s probably the best English midfielder around, and that’s why he’s going to be extremely expensive if anyone comes calling,” manager David Moyes said in the aftermath of Sunday’s 1-0 victory over Manchester United.
Rice’s deal expires next summer, but West Ham have the option of a further 12 months beyond that, meaning he is effectively under contract for two more seasons.
Even so, their bargaining position would be weakened were Rice to get any closer to the end of his deal — when he could walk away for nothing — and internally it has been agreed for some time that the 24-year-old will have to be sold this summer to maximise his value.
Arsenal have made Rice their No1 target, as Mikel Arteta looks to build upon the success of this season’s title challenge.
Chelsea have held long-standing interest in a player they released as a 14-year-old, but the Blues will not have the pulling power of Champions League football next season and have other targets as they seek a high-profile signing to play alongside Fernandez, including Brighton’s Moises Caicedo.
United and Liverpool have also been long-term admirers, but the latter seem likely to be put off by West Ham’s price-tag, having pulled out of the race for Jude Bellingham for similar reasons.