Rice will be allowed to leave, with Arsenal his likeliest destination, and replacing him will be one of David Moyes’s biggest challenges. West Ham, who are also in pole position to bolster their attack by signing Harvey Barnes from Leicester, are expected to target two central midfielders.
Moyes is keen on James Ward-Prowse, who will leave Southampton after their relegation from the Premier League, and West Ham are also considering a move for Álvarez. Ajax are prepared to sell the Mexico international, the subject of a bid from Chelsea last summer, and want £40m plus £5m in add-ons.
West Ham are looking to negotiate a lower fee for Álvarez, who has extensive Champions League experience, and that could hurt their chances of signing him. They risk missing out on the 25-year-old to Borussia Dortmund, who have money to spend after agreeing to sell Jude Bellingham to Real Madrid for €103m (£88.5m) plus add-ons that could reach about another €30m. West Ham hope Ajax settle for less after missing out on Champions League qualification.
João Palhinha is an alternative midfield option for West Ham but the Portugal international would not be cheap after impressing since joining Fulham for £20m last summer. There is an obvious appeal to Ward-Prowse because of the England international’s Premier League experience and set-piece prowess.
West Ham, who qualified for the Europa League by winning the Europa Conference League, know it will take more than one player to fill the gap left by Rice. West Ham want at least £100m for their captain, who is being targeted by Arsenal, Bayern Munich, Newcastle and Manchester United. Arsenal hope to pay about £90m.
Part of West Ham’s planning will be informed by the reality that Rice’s presence was not enough to stop them struggling in midfield this season. Moyes looked for upgrades on Tomas Soucek last summer but the Czech Republic midfielder, who lacks poise in possession, is still a key player. Soucek, who is a goal threat, started alongside Rice when West Ham beat Fiorentina in the Conference League final. Flynn Downes has not established himself since joining from Swansea last summer and Manuel Lanzini is leaving on a free.
West Ham will have access to funds once they sell Rice and are looking for additions on the left wing. They have held talks over Barnes but face competition from Aston Villa, Newcastle and Tottenham. Barnes scored 13 goals last season and would suit Moyes’s counterattacking approach. Leicester want £40m for the 25-year-old but West Ham will look to pay £30m.
Meanwhile, West Ham have been charged by Uefa following the behaviour of their fans in the Conference League final.
Fiorentina’s captain, Cristiano Biraghi, sustained a cut head after being hit by one of several plastic cups hurled at him from the end containing West Ham supporters as he went to take a first-half corner. The English club have also been charged with an invasion of the field of play.
Fiorentina have landed two charges relating to the lighting of fireworks and throwing of objects.
Uefa’s Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body (CEDB) will decide on the matter in due course.