Declan Rice – Is this the Last Dance at West Ham?

With the 22-year-olds footballing status continue to rise, it is slowly becoming clear for West Ham fans that they will be enjoying their final season with the sensational midfielder. And with years of his impressive performances, it seems that it will be more challenging for the Hammers to hold down the England international as his profile continues to rise.

And with West Ham entering their first Europa League campaign, the attention will be on Declan Rice to march David Moyes side deep into the competition and will no doubt want to prove Europe his worth of the £100 million price tag set by the club.

The Journey –

Before Declan Rice became the co-captain and a first-team regular in the England squad, forming a fantastic partnership with Kalvin-Phillips, Declan was released by Chelsea at age 14, joining the Academy of Football in 2014. At 14, he quickly developed into a fantastic young talent, even forcing himself to break into the under 18’s side. And with his talent being recognised, he gained a 2-year scholarship with the club, progressing into a superstar.

Through his time in the development squads, Rice earned a pro-contract before turning 17, following a tremendous season winning the Dylan Tombides award in 2016 for being the most outstanding Academy player. It seemed that Rice was always going to progress into the first team with his quick development, and by getting a first-team call up a year signing after his professional contract, it was Slaven Bilic fast-tracked the youngster onto the first-team bench.

Slaven Bilic clearly showed his faith in the 18-year-old Declan Rice his debut on the final day of the season in a 2-1 win over Burnley the future West Ham captain came onto see out the game in a turbulent year for the Hammers fans, after an eventful move to the London Stadium.

Despite the challenging season for the first team, Rice has proven his ability to lead a team to success, captaining the under 23’s to promotion to the Premier League 2, an attribute to his game that has become quite apparent at both clubs and national. And with his career at the Hammers developing at such a rapid rate, there was no surprise that at age 18, Rice quickly became a first-team regular in 2017/18, substituting for Noble in a 4-0 defeat to Old Trafford, getting his first-team start in a 3-2 loss to Southampton.

In the 2017/18 season, Rice made 26 appearances for the club, with even Pep Guardiola commenting on the West Ham midfielder, “Declan Rice is an excellent young player and he will be a top English player for many years to come.”, and continued to develop and play 32 games the following season, and all 38 games in the 2019/20 season.

Since 2017/18, Rice has played under three different coaches and has progressed under each managers guidance, playing over 150 games for the club but has been most clear that his partnership with David Moyes has brought the best out of the young international.

And since David Moyes has returned for his second term as manager, he has improved the squad tremendously with his new signings and managerial style has transformed the Irons into a European side with Rice at the centre of the team. These improvements saw West Ham go from 17th to 6th in under a season and saw talents flourish, like Coufal, Soucek, and Said Benrahma who has already started the season in top form with two goals and assists in the opening three games. And with Jesse Lingard’s impressive five months at the club, it looks as though West Ham are starting to bring in talented players to surround the 22-year-old. 

Declan Rice has even commented on his development and his desires as he grows as a talent in the Premier League, “I don’t think I can play high up, I don’t think that would suit me, but I feel as though I could play as more of an 8, a box to box player because I can start to score more goals as well, I’ve got that in me for sure.”

With two goals last season, West Ham fans wouldn’t be opposed to holding back their best talent, especially with the arrival of Alex Kral, who will also play a deep-lying midfield role. And with Rice showing his playmaking role improving he has already averaged two key passes a game this season, which has become easier with the vast selection of attacking midfielders.

The Final Season? – 

After an incredible Euro’s, Declan Rice once again was surrounded with so much media attention and Premier League clubs that are circling the young international. 

And with Man City already meeting the £100 million asking price for Jack Grealish, it should come as a concern for West Ham. The £100 million asking price has already been discussed by Moyes commenting to Sky Sports that “I don’t agree with the owners that Declan Rice is a £100million footballer. Far, far more than £100m. Far more.” 

And with Rice’s stock continuing to rise at West Ham, with his importance to the club becoming ever as they enter their first European season and look to repeat another magical season as fans return to stadiums.

It seems that one of the only scenario’s that will keep Declan Rice at the club would be to get European qualifications, but with Declan Rice rejecting a contract extension, going up until 2024, there will be growing competition to sign him.

Currently, there are three clubs after the England international – 

Chelsea – Since Frank Lampard was the Chelsea manager, there has always been interest surrounding Declan Rice, and with the 22-year-old already expressing his desire to play European football and compete for silverware, it seems a move could be on the cards to get that regularly. 

Chelsea does have the advantage over the other bidding clubs, with Declan Rice being a former youth player already being a fan of the club and best friends with Mason Mount, no doubt will have an impact on his decision.

Although Chelsea’s long term interest in the England international has been so apparent, it seems like Thomas Tuchel isn’t as interested in Rice doesn’t seem as large as that of the former manager. And with the arrival of Saul from Atletico Madrid this season, it appears as though Chelsea are already looking at signing European experience to their Champions League winning team.

Man United – The interest of Declan Rice began during the Euros, where it became apparent that whilst on international duty, he said that he had discussed the possibility of playing with Maguire and Shaw at Manchester United.

And after signing a new forward, winger and defender in Ronaldo, Sancho and Varane, Ole Gunna Solskjaer will be looking to fill the void in the United midfield, in the 2022 summer window, with the issues surrounding Fred for not meeting the expectations of many fans.

But with United not bringing in many trophies since the departure of Jose Mourinho in 2018, he could either be the missing link to the team’s success or could end up being another expensive player to fund the shortcomings of the recent Manchester United.

Manchester City – The Premier League Champions, are joining the race for Declan Rice, as they will be looking to replace 37-year-old Fernandinho who’s in the last year of his contract. And the Cityzen’s will be looking to work on a replacement for Fernandinho after failing to sign a new striker after the departure of another City legend Sergio Aguero, the demand will be greater.

It will look most likely that City will be looking at a variety of options in the summer transfer window. But after an expensive transfer this summer of spending the asking price of £100 million for Jack Grealish. It wouldn’t come as a surprise if they were willing to spend the same amount on Declan Rice, but this may not be their interest with their desires potentially forming around Erling Haaland, who becomes available for £60 million next season.

With Man City looking like the most desirable club to move to win the trophies and fill the cabinet, the success in the recent years winning 3 out of the four last Premier League titles. The amount of rotation that Guardiola likes to do with his teams may be challenging on Rice as he is a play that likes to play regular Premier League games. The move would probably be most favourable to learning and develop his game to make him the complete midfielder, under the guidance of Pep Guardiola.

 

My Thoughts –

As a West Ham fan myself, it has been a pleasure watching Declan Rice, looking at his personal development and seeing an 18-year-old grow into one of the best young talents in the Premier League. With the guidance of players such as Mark Noble, he has proven his ability to lead and improve the squad from the centre of the West Ham midfield. The work of David Moyes has also seen his forward game progress with his ball-carrying being able to go past most midfielders with ease.

And after these five years, it has been incredible to see his talents also be recognised and appreciated by England fans after another magical tournament in Euro 2020. The summer was only topping off an immense Premier League campaign where he helped take his team to the Europa League for the first time. 

If Rice were to leave, it would be bittersweet, with the pain of a brilliant talent going onto better things, but you know that he has done it in a way that has allowed a fantastic squad to flourish around him and wouldn’t be leaving the team in turmoil, like when he first burst into the team.

But there would be no doubt in my mind that if West Ham were to qualify for the Europa League or win a trophy in Noble’s last season, it would become harder for the 22-year-old to leave the Hammers, especially not until 2024.